A Parma teenager is the only U.S. athlete to qualify for wheelchair fencing at the 2016 Paralympic Games this September after taking home the gold at the Wheelchair Pan American Championship qualifier last month.
Lauryn DeLuca, 16, was born with cerebral palsy and began her fencing career as an able-bodied fencer. But after struggling with weakness on her left side, she took up wheelchair fencing in 2013.
“I was actually thinking about quitting fencing and then I was approached with this opportunity and I took it,” DeLuca told newsnet5.com.
And it turned out that DeLuca was a world-class candidate for the sport, training at Hooked on Fencing in North Royalton.
“You’ve got to be able to maintain good form while you’re doing things at a very, very fast pace,” Lauryn’s coach Nick Arlington. “And Lauryn is very fast as a fencer, very fast.”
DeLuca took earned gold at the USA Fencing National Championships in 2015 in both the Wheelchair Foil and Wheelchair Epee events.
Arlington said the entire club was rooting her on during her qualifying round.
“I think it's a lot of pride for the club but it's also pride for the whole area,” he said. “I think a lot of people are pretty excited to know that we’re sending someone from here and I couldn’t think of a better person to send than Lauryn.”
Lauryn’s parents, Steve and Tracy DeLuca said they could not be more proud of their daughter and never saw her disability as a limitation.
The Parma Senior High School soon-to-be junior said she’s also hoping to help increase the visibility of wheelchair sports and the Paralympics.
“We’re making steps to make sure that the disabled and handicapped population of America has the resources to show everybody their strengths,” she said.
The DeLucas are also raising money to fund Lauryn’s upcoming trip to Brazil with a Go Fund Me page.