February 10, 2009

Disabled Olympian Driscoll to speak at SIUC

by Christi Mathis

Jean Driscoll
CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Jean Driscoll may have been born with spina bifida, but she’s refused to let it define her life. The world-class athlete, Olympian and advocate for those with disabilities will share her inspirational story at Southern Illinois University Carbondale this month.

The free presentation is set for 2-3:30 p.m. Friday, Feb. 20, at Wham 105, Davis Auditorium. SIUC Recreational Sports and Services and Women for Health and Wellness Inc. are sponsoring the event.

“This is a great opportunity for the University community to meet a world-class athlete,” said Kathy L. Hollister, assistant director of special populations for SIUC Recreational Sports and Services.

For Driscoll, a wheelchair isn’t a sign of disability; it’s merely her venue for getting things done. She earned a bachelor’s in speech communication and a master’s in rehabilitation from the University of Illinois and is the only eight-time winner of the Boston Marathon in the event’s more than 100 years, competing in the women’s wheelchair division from 1990 to 2000. During her reign she broke the world record five times and still retains the current world and course record of one hour, 34 minutes.

Driscoll earned Olympic silver medals in the 1992 and 1996 summer games in the 800- meter women’s wheelchair exhibition event. Competing in the Paralympics, hosted every four years by the Olympic site just two weeks after the international Olympic games, Driscoll boosted her medal count high. In South Korea, Spain, Georgia and Australia between 1988 and 2000, she earned five gold, three silver and four bronze medals and set a new world record in the 10,000 meter women’s wheelchair race.

“Sports Illustrated for Women” selected Driscoll as one of the magazine’s “Top 25” female athletes of the 20th century. She’s been the spokesperson for a number of organizations and companies, made numerous media and broadcast appearances and is the national spokesperson for the American Association of Adapted Sports Program’s Adapted Sports in Recreation and Education (ASPIRE) project.

An author, she also co-founded the non-profit Determined To Win organization and works as a television sports commentator. Around the globe, Driscoll is an ambassador for wheelchair track and works with the not-for-profit organization Joni and Friends to restore wheelchairs and distribute them to people in third world countries.

“Dream BIG and Work Hard” is the theme of Driscoll’s presentation at SIUC. A powerful motivational speaker, Driscoll has a message of hope, determination and victory to share.

For more information, call 618/985-9210.