When you’re injured at the tender age of 8.5 months, like Australian Paralympian , “transitioning” to life with a spinal cord injury and developing a body — as well as a mind — that excels at adapted sports is a definite bonus. Jonkers, 28, whose sport is swimming, has been to three Paralympics — Sydney, Athens and Beijing — and is ranked second in the world in both the 50-meter breaststroke and the 150-meter individual medley.
When Jonkers’ mother was told Marayke would never be able to walk, introducing her daughter to swimming seemed like the next logical step. “She took me to mum/infant swim lessons and I never needed to wear floaties. By the time I was 2, I could swim across the pool by myself.” Jonkers, a T5 para, started competing at the age of 5 and has been steamrolling the world of adapted swimming ever since.
And while SCI-related health issues can wreak havoc in the lives of disabled athletes, Jonkers bounces back harder than a red bouncy ball. “After Beijing, I got a pressure sore and promptly spent six months lying in bed while all my teammates partied and celebrated before going back to training. By the time the pressure sore healed, I got dizzy from just sitting up and it was hard to transfer, let alone do swimming races.”
But Jonkers wasn’t about to let a pesky sore win. “I was determined to get back in shape, so I started swimming again one lap at a time, and gradually my times started to improve. Six months later, I broke my own Australian record for the 50-meter breaststroke at the National Championships.”
When she’s not busy training or competing, Jonkers enjoys the finer things in life, like homemade dinners cooked by her live-in (and chef) boyfriend or enjoying her riverside apartment near the beach in Maroochydore, Queensland. Visit www.marayke.comfor more details.
NOLA Survivor Founds Nonprofit
“On the day we left New Orleans, the only means of transportation available to us was the United Cab Co., and we paid $180 to get to Baton Rouge,” recalls Sunshine King, 30, who was a new T4-5 of only 10 months at the time (from a gunshot wound related to domestic abuse). This was the crazy Katrina-devastated world she had to face post-injury, not to mention being bumped around from COBRA to no insurance to Medicaid, and finally Medicare.
Having known personal struggle, King decided to found the Sunshine Project, a nonprofit dedicated to “ensuring that individuals with spinal cord injuries get the proper information and resources necessary to improve their quality of life.” Her nonprofit, based in Maryland, holds a variety of functions from fundraisers to modeling and adapted dance expos (King’s passion pre-injury).
For more information on how to support this organization, visit www.sunshineprojecthelp.com.
No ‘Tilt’ Required
For the more adventurous manual wheelchair users of the world, Terry Darling’s wheelchair-accessible recliner provides an easy way to kick back and relax. Darling’s design works by removing the seat and inserting a floor block, so all you need to do is pop a wheelie, and Bam! — instant comfort. Check it out at www.wheelchairaccessiblerecliner.com.