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'I love being different': 17-year-old strives to compete in 2024 Paralympics

“I like proving people wrong. I love being able to educate others,” Amaris Vazquez Collazo told 5 On Your Side.

ST. LOUIS — Liberty High School student Amaris Vazquez Collazo has a “can-do” attitude, and her life has taught her to be that way.

“Showing the world what I’m capable of,” she said.

She was born with a severe club foot on her right leg. Despite the effort of doctors, the condition could not be corrected.

“Around 14 months old my parents had the really hard choice to amputate my foot,” she said.

The family eventually moved to the St. Louis from Puerto Rico, where she was born, in hopes of getting her better care.

Being among her peers wasn’t always comfortable for her.

“It was definitely a challenge; third grade was a rough patch in my life. I wore pants all the time because I didn’t want to show my leg. It was embarrassing to be different at that time,” she said.

When she began taking part in sports, she began to gain confidence and a competitive edge.

“She started with taekwondo. Kids were afraid of her,” her mom told 5 On Your Side.

“I was taught to just, if I could do it just do it. Do whatever you want,” she said.

The more she played sports, the less she saw her prostatic leg as a weakness.

“I think God gave me my leg for a reason,” she said.

She believes the reasons go beyond giving her the ability to run and play. She also uses it to knockdown stereotypes.

“I like proving people wrong. I love being able to educate others,” she said.

She is doing all of this while also setting her sights on competing for Puerto Rico in the 2024 Paralympics. It is why she trains every day on the running track.

“I want to win. I think I use that competitiveness as my drive. It makes me want to work harder,” she said.

But the international competition may only be a chapter in the story of her life.

“This is only the beginning,” she said.

She believes she has discovered her purpose and has found comfort in being her true self.

“Better to love yourself than to hide away. You were born to be who you are for a reason. I love being different,” she said.

If you know of a challenged athlete looking for a way to compete, the non-profit organization Disable Athlete Sports Association in St. Peters has several programs.

   

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