Brittni Mason, a 23-year-old world record holder in the 100-meters T47 (upper limb impairment) who is competing in the Tokyo Paralympic Games, serves as a reminder that the starting blocks of life should never define you. It’s how you run the race.
OK, I’ll admit it.
When I sat down to start writing this column, I had every intention of focusing on the NFL and how it’s tackling Covid-19 and the Delta variant on the eve of yet another season.
We have seen some of the league’s biggest names such as Indianapolis Colts quarterback Carson Wentz and now-former New England Patriots quarterback and former league MVP Cam Newton, placed on the NFL’s reserve/Covid-19 list.
They remind us all that no one, no matter how many touchdowns you throw or dollars you have in the bank, is immune or isolated from this virus impacting their lives and the lives of others.
Then I started to do a little channel surfing, only to pull up on a track and field event starring some of the best paralympic athletes in the world.
And so I saw 23-year-old Brittni Mason for the first time. My day, and this column, were forever changed. If you don’t know who Brittni Mason is, you should.
She is a dynamic young woman who has been an absolute blur out of the starting blocks during the Paralympic Games in Tokyo, a world record-holder who has already claimed a silver medal in what was a photo-finish in the 100-meter T47 (upper limb impairment) final.
Mason, who was diagnosed with Erb's Palsy as a child which limits movement and motion in her left shoulder and arm, isn’t done.
She’s also competing in the 200-meter race with preliminaries on Thursday, and the 200-meter finals set for Friday morning.
Her story, like most Olympic and Paralympic-caliber athletes, has had its share of adversity.
But what I have enjoyed in watching her compete, and listening to her talk of her journey and the village that has lifted her to this point, is the balance that she has struck between being humble about the path she’s on while maintaining that track-star swagger that all the greats have because what they say, they back up.
That’s why Mason’s story is so important to not only acknowledge, but amplify.
There is a stigma that paralympic athletes have endured well before they arrived on the global stage to put their athletic prowess on full display.
They know better than most what it feels like to be told you’re less than equal; that your success isn’t as good as others.
But to witness Mason and those Flo Jo-like nails of hers at the starting block that immediately become a work of colorful, collaged art in motion as she makes her way down the track ... This moment, this athlete, is what we should be celebrating.
It makes me think about the Olympic credo which is, “The important thing in life is not the triumph, but the fight; the essential thing is not to have won, but to have fought well."
Mason is a fighter who has fought well.
And that fight will likely land her another paralympic medal when all is said and done as she sprints towards what should be another medal-worthy showing this week.
But her success is about more than bringing home paralympic hardware.
The former Eastern Michigan University track star serves as a reminder of how important it is to remember where you start is just part of your life’s path.
How you move on from that point, is what matters.
She could have easily allowed her disability to define her. Instead, it drives her towards bigger, better and greater things.
Kudos to her parents, Richard and Cherree Mason, who got her involved in all kinds of sports (swimming, gymnastics and basketball, to name a few) at an early age and instilled the kind of confidence and provided the support that has elevated her to top-shelf status among Paralympic athletes worldwide.
So yeah, I am like so many others looking forward to the NFL season getting started in the coming days.
But for now, join me in enjoying Brittni Mason who reminds us all to just keep moving regardless of where your starting block in life may be.