Natalie was born with an incurable condition called osteogenesis imperfecta, a condition that causes brittle bones to break easily
Eight-year-old Natalie wowed those at the Junior Olympic Championship as she performed a solo in the first-ever AWD division. Natalie was born with osteogenesis imperfecta, a condition that causes brittle bones to break easily. The eight-year-old suffered more than 40 fractured bones as a result of her rare condition, osteogenesis imperfecta, and the audience at the Junior Olympic Championship cheered wildly as she completed a brilliant solo routine. Due to her condition, performing activities on land becomes near impossible and it's swimming that helps her stay active. The video clearly shows that she's taken to swimming like a duck to water.
The video of her performance was posted online by USA Artistic Swimming. "If you need a little inspiration to start your week, look no further than this solo from 8-year-old Natalie who competed in our first-ever AWD (Athletes with Disabilities) division at the Junior Olympic Championship last week," read the post. They added that it was swimming that helps her stay active. "Natalie was born with an incurable condition called osteogenesis imperfecta, a condition that causes brittle bones that break easily. Since birth, she has suffered over 40 broken or fractured bones. Despite the challenges, Natalie’s parents say her spirit is unbreakable. Swimming helps her stay active, even when her body isn’t able to on land. We should all be a little bit more like Natalie! We hope your spirit is unbreakable this week," concluded the post.
Many praised Natalie for her splendid achievement and performance. "Beautiful job Natalie! I enjoyed your expressiveness came through in your movement," wrote Ked Davis. "This is why water is so wonderful. Love the routine too! Brava!" wrote the page of the International swim coaches association. "Amazing Natalie. You are an inspiration," wrote Shona Pallas.
Brittle bone disease is a disorder that results in fragile bones that break easily. It’s present at birth and usually develops in children who have a family history of the disease, according to Healthline. The disease is often referred to as osteogenesis imperfecta (OI), which means “imperfectly formed bone.” Brittle bone disease can range from mild to severe. Most cases are mild, resulting in few bone fractures. Approximately one person in 20,000 develops the brittle bone disease.
The Junior Olympic Championship is the largest national event hosted by USA Artistic swimming annually, attracting close to 1,000 participants from across the nation in a typical year that qualify through regional competitions. Teena Bowles, believed to be the caregiver of Natalie, thanked everyone for their wishes and wrote beneath the post: "Thank you all! She is amazing. I will be with her all the way to that one day when Artistic Swimming will be a Paralympic Sport!!" Bowles urged others to follow the Artistic swimming for Athletes with Disabilities, a page dedicated to the grassroots movement for athletes with disabilities.
This was the first-ever AWD division held at the Junior Olympic Championship. "The event also marks a huge step forward in inclusion for USA Artistic Swimming as an organization," read a statement on the US Artistic swimming website. "The 2021 Championship will be the first time athletes with disabilities are provided the opportunity to compete at an officially sanctioned national championship." They also acknowledged the role of the group Artistic swimming for Athletes with Disabilities in making this a reality. "Swimming has long been a popular sport for athletes with both physical and cognitive disabilities due to the practical and therapeutic benefits. Artistic swimming provides these benefits and more, with the added layer of artistic expression, body awareness, and flexibility. Organizations such as ‘Artistic Swimming for Athletes with Disabilities’ have launched with the goal of encouraging more programs across the country to include this division and with the long-term goal of including the sport in the Paralympics," read the post.