Mariann Main: 2 heroes who overcame the odds


Mission accomplished. Adrianne Haslet-Davis completed Monday’s 120th running of the Boston Marathon. It took her 10 hours to overcome the grueling 26.2-mile course, but the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing survivor crossed the finish line Monday evening, relying upon her MIT-built prosthetic left leg.

Haslet-Davis, 35, is a former Arthur Murray professional ballroom dance instructor and Fortune 500 manager who had the courage to run the marathon which forever changed her life. The April 13, 2013, bombing impacted hundreds of other spectators, claimed three lives and injured 264. In addition to Haslet-Davis, 30 other survivors of the 2013 blast participated in Monday’s Boston Marathon, which included 30,000 runners, the largest number in the race’s history.

Since Haslet-Davis’ 2013 injury, which claimed her left leg just below the knee, she has spent three years in rehabilitation to regain her strength and restore mobility. Haslet-Davis’ training was not just physical; she also realized that crossing the finish line shattered a monumental emotional barrier. “I hope I have enough hydration to cry and run at the same time,” she told WCVB News.

New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady followed Haslet-Davis’ Boston Marathon progress via social media. “She’s on the course now, running the race for the first time – with a prosthetic leg,” Brady wrote in a Facebook post on Monday. “Adrianne, thank you for being my inspiration!!”

Boston native and CBS “Blue Bloods” actor Mark Wahlberg tracked her progress from the race sidelines. President Obama contacted Haslet-Davis after she finished the run to congratulate her on the achievement.

Since her injury, Haslet-Davis has become a spokeswoman for the Limbs for Life Foundation, which assists amputees who cannot afford prosthetics. She was featured in 2014 as a TED Talk presenter, is a frequent motivational speaker, and has returned to the dance floor as a ballroom instructor.

“I refuse to be called a victim,” she said. “I am not defined by what happened in my life. I am a survivor, defined by how I live my life.”

Another noteworthy ballroom achiever who has overcome unlikely odds is Nyle DiMarco. The 2015 winner of “America’s Next Top Model” has become a fan favorite and talented participant during this season’s “Dancing with the Stars.” The Queens, New York, native, is not just athletically gifted and undeniably handsome, but the most surprising component of his ballroom success is his ability to dance without hearing any music. DiMarco is deaf.

As a ballroom enthusiast, I am astounded by DiMarco’s ability. His participation on the weekly show has catapulted ratings and launched DiMarco as spokesman and example of “anything is possible” for the hearing impaired.

Born to deaf parents, DiMarco’s two brothers are also deaf, as were their grandparents. Divorced when DiMarco and his fraternal twin brother were young, Donna DiMarco raised her three sons in Fredrick, Maryland, and instilled an unbreakable spirit that being deaf is not a handicap.

DiMarco is a graduate of Gallaudet University, where he majored in mathematics. He has traveled the world alone without an interpreter. DiMarco communicates via American Sign Language, is a proficient lip reader, and is astute in “reading” the non-verbal cues of others.

DiMarco is the second non-hearing “Dancing with the Stars” participant (actress Marlee Matlin was first). Paired with professional dancing partner Peta Murgatroyd, DiMarco receives his cues via her finger positioning and other prompts.

DiMarco’s deafness is so profound he cannot hear any of the music and reportedly dislikes feeling vibration through the ballroom floor since it disrupts his counting of steps and memorizing the dance movements. Despite his inability to pair the music with Murgatroyd’s choreographed routine, DiMarco received this season’s first score of a perfect “10” during Monday’s show.

The minimalistic costumes and at times overly hyped commentary by judges have made me a less frequent viewer during past seasons. However, I am cheering for DiMarco to win the coveted “mirror ball trophy” as the show’s Season 22 champion.

Between DiMarco’s unlikely proficiency as a deaf ballroom dancer and Haslet-Davis’ completion of the Boston Marathon with a prosthetic left leg, the rationale most of us give for not trying something new or perceivably challenging should be reconsidered. If DiMarco and Haslet-Davis can achieve greatness against the odds, what excuses could we possibly offer?

Mariann Main

Local Answers to Life’s Questions

Mariann Main is a Delaware native and undergraduate of Ohio State University. She is has a master’s degree in community counseling from Georgia State University and can be contacted at [email protected]

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