19 Jan 2015 Team Some Assembly Required Profile: Tanya the Atomic Angel
TEAM SOME ASSEMBLY REQUIRED IS BACK! Last year we assembled an amazing team of adaptive athletes that competed against able bodied CrossFitters to show the world that anything is possible.
This year at the Arnold Classic (March 6-8), two teams of adaptive athletes will face off against other teams of CrossFitters at the Arnold Midwest Affiliate Gathering. A total of 10 adaptive athletes from the across the country will come together to inspire, smile, share their stories, and compete. They aren’t competing in an adaptive division, they are throwing down head to head in a non-scaled event.
Each member of SAR has battled through some obstacle in their life. Either having received their wounds on the battlefield, via automobile injury, or congenital..these men and women are united their ability to adapt and overcome.
Each week will be featuring a different athlete on Team SAR. We want to share their story with you all so you can get a sense of who they are and hopefully they will inspire you. Please make plans to watch them compete and stop by the Rogue American Apparel and Crossroads Adaptive Athletic Alliance booth to meet them.
First up, we’d like to introduce you to Tanya Khvitsko.
Tanya was born in Belarus, close to the site of the Chernobyl disaster. The Chernobyl disaster is the worst nuclear accident in history. An explosion and fire released large quantities of radioactive particles into the atmosphere, which spread over much of the western Soviet Union and Europe. Ongoing cancers and health issues are still being analyzed till this day.
Tanya is known as a “child of Chernobyl”. In her own words, “I was one of many children who got affected by the Chernobyl accident and Chernobyl was the reason why I was born with no limbs.”
Tanya is a double leg amputee and she is missing several fingers on each hand. What’s it like growing up in a former Soviet Union country with no limbs?
“I did my first baby steps at age 4 with my first ever wooden prosthesis. All I remember is that they were super uncomfortable and super heavy. Before that I just used my knees to move everywhere because I lived in an orphanage (my birth family left me in a hospital after I was born but they took me back home after I turned 4 years old). It wasn’t easy growing up without legs because I was always reminded by my birth parents that I am different from others. I was never able to prove to my family that I am capable of doing things even with my limitations. I was shy of my legs and hands and I would never wear shorts or dresses to show my prosthesis in public; I would always move my hands really fast in hope that people wouldn’t pay attention to my hands.
At age 5 my parents sent me to a boarding school where kids had disabilities. Again, I still ended up being the only kid in a whole school who was missing limbs. I think the hardest part for me was just to accept myself for who I am. It took me a long time to open up and trust others and trust myself. I am not a shy person but I am very closed and it took me forever to open up.”
Originally left in the hospital and later sent to a boarding school, Tanya later developed a better relationship with her birth parents.
Fortunately through Project Restoration (an organization that helped kids from Chernobyl) she was able to come to the US every summer for medical care. While in the states during the summers she became apart of her American family who was able to send her to college and live in the States.
Tanya loved her summers in the states. It was here where she learned she could run.
“I was relatively active in my school. I played pingpong as my sport and I did a lot of performing on stage. But thru contacts, I was told to go to Florida because there is a company who was willing to work with me since I was no longer able to go to the Shriners hospital because I was over age. In Florida they made me a set of walking legs and I think they had a feeling that I would break the legs if I walked fast. So they actually surprised me with a set of my first ever running legs. I never knew what it’s like to run- it was amazing!!!! I was so fast for a first timer that I had people stop me because I didn’t know how to control the running legs. So I officially started running 3 years ago and that’s when my confidence went up. I realized that I am stronger than what I thought. Few months later I ran my first race in 30 min. A year later I ran a half marathon. Then I started sprinting running has really helped me with confidence and with my strength.”
Running gave her the confidence to try new things, including CrossFit. Still new to CrossFit, Tanya will do her first competition at the Arnold Classic. She’s admits she’s nervous, but knows her team will take care of her.
When asked what gives her motivation in life? It’s all a matter of perspective:
“Even though Chernobyl has taken from me so much, I received so much instead. I have the best support group now who truly believes in me and I just can’t disappoint them. Another thing is that there is always a person who has less than me. I always use cancer as an example. There is a little girl fighting a cancer – in other words she’s fighting for her life. So I can’t really complain knowing that I can still do awesome things in this world while missing a few limbs .”
This is Tanya, a member of Team Some Assembly Required. A child of Chernobyl who would grow up to become an “Atomic Angel” with a nuclear powered smile. Let her story inspire you to overcome your own internal obstacles. Please make plans to watch her and get a chance to meet her at the Midwest Affiliate Gathering.
Thanks to our incredible sponsors who stepped up and paid the travel expenses for Team Some Assembly Required: