MS Paralympian Aims for a Bull’s-eye

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by Ed Tobias |

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Lia Coryell says she wanted to die.

According to The New York Times, after fighting COVID-19 last winter, Coryell 56, was hit with heart and kidney failure, pneumonia, and shingles. This was in addition to living with progressive multiple sclerosis.

“I’ve had to fight this really dark demon that says: ‘Why are you fighting this? Just let go, let go,’” Coryell told the Times‘ Ben Shpigel. “But I’ve never let go because out there there’s some kid in the same situation I was in, or some woman or man who’s been diagnosed with M.S. that feels insignificant or invisible, and I can’t let that happen.

“This is why I’m still here.”

In August, Coryell was back on the archery range at the Paralympics in Tokyo aiming for a medal. In 2016, she made it to the bronze medal round by firing her compound bow from her wheelchair, a good start for the first woman competing in the sport for the U.S. Paralympic team and the first female class W1 archer in the Western Hemisphere.

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W1 means most disability

Paralympic archers this year are competing in two categories, W1 and Open. W1 is for athletes whose arms and legs are impaired and who use a wheelchair. The Open category includes wheelchair users whose impairment is in the legs, plus archers with a balance impairment who can stand or rest on a stool.

Other Paralympic sports have their own ability classifications, and athletes with MS are competing in several of those sports.

More MS Paralympians

Elizabeth Rodrigues Gomes, 56, was diagnosed with MS in 1993. Gomes is a world champion discus thrower on the Brazilian team. At this year’s Paralympics, she brought home the gold. Gomes has also competed in shot put and javelin throw.

Cécile Hernandez, 47, of France won a silver medal in snowboarding at the 2014 Paralympics in Sochi, and a bronze in snowboard cross at the 2018 Games in Pyeongchang. Hernandez was diagnosed with MS in 2002.

“My biggest enemy is my multiple sclerosis because I don’t know how I will wake up tomorrow. I’m not the same at nine, at 10:00, at 11:00, and at 14:00. It’s the nerve system so it changes when I’m tired, when I’m upset, when it’s cold. But it’s my life,” she told

Diagnosed with MS in 1998, Australia’s Carol Cooke, 60, won gold in T1-2 road cycling in the 2016 Paralympics in Rio. She was expected to be a medal winner again this year, but a crash in Tokyo that left her hospitalized dashed her hopes for a repeat. 

You don’t have to be a Paralympian to be an MS athlete

Cheryl Hile, 47, has run marathons all over the world. In fact, in 2016 she ran seven — one on each continent. Since I wrote about her five years ago, she’s started a running/walking group for people with MS and their families and friends, called “Run a Myelin My Shoes.”

April Hester, 46, likes to hike in the woods and go on long treks lasting several weeks on some tough trails. In 2017, she and her husband, Bernie, spent a month hiking the 460-mile Palmetto Trail in South Carolina. Last year, they planned to hike the full 2,200-mile Appalachian Trail that runs from Maine to Georgia, but had to postpone the trip due to the pandemic. The couple hopes to reschedule that hike sometime next year.

‘It’s just a body’

There was no medal in the cards for archer Lia Coryell at the Tokyo Paralympics, and she now plans to retire and continue coaching her sport.

“This is just a body, just a glob of cells, and right now it’s defective,” Coryell told the Times. “Who I am will always be with all the people that I’ve touched, and a world I’ve made a little bit better.”


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Note: Multiple Sclerosis News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Multiple Sclerosis News Today or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to multiple sclerosis.




great comparisons for a new MS person learning about being told about having MS and these people that show that you can go on and do a lot just want to and to work it and yes we do have the bad days but we do keep fighting for the next one to help them on this journey with MS,,,..........thank you and hope you are back to normal for you ..sorry about being so sick and much happiness is my best medicine for it ...stay safe and keep on keeping on...

Paula Mieczkowski avatar

Paula Mieczkowski

It’s been one helluva day and it’s only 11:38. Then you interjected this article into my morning news. Your article gave me the kick in the ass I needed. For this, I thank you kindly. Keep up your work you obviously show passion for. Have a good one. Paula

Ed Tobias avatar

Ed Tobias

Hi Paula,

It was my pleasure to kick you in the ass. I don't get that kind of opportunity everyday! Hope your mornings yesterday and today was better than it was on Saturday.



Christine avatar


Wow! What a great article! Thank you so much for sharing these stories. You have the most insightful columns. I love these athlete’s perspectives. And learned a lot I can apply to my own situation.

Ed Tobias avatar

Ed Tobias

Hi Christine,

Thanks for your comments and I'm glad you like the stuff I write. It's important to me know that it's resonating with people.

Good luck,


Abbey Turner-Watson avatar

Abbey Turner-Watson

Diag. aged 22, (30yrs ago), and being athletic in my pre-MS days (with a medal or two to my name!), I have complete love and admiration of those who are (still) able to compete in their chosen athletic field, and want to give out a resounding "Well done and Thank you.".
I wish I could join you, but instead send out my mental-support and best wishes to you all.
Be well, Abbey xx

Ed Tobias avatar

Ed Tobias


I don't know if any of the athletes will read this column, (though I know that April and Cheryl have read it in the past). But, I hope they'll see your comments.


Rachel Jane Harris avatar

Rachel Jane Harris

Hi Ed, just to politely correct you re. Carol Cooke; she did won a medal in Tokyo - at age 60, she took silver in the women’s T1-T2 time trial. This was the day before the race where she took the spill that she is recovering from, with typical stoicism.,to%20get%20on%20the%20podium%20at%20the%20Paralympics.

Ed Tobias avatar

Ed Tobias

Thanks for the correction, Rachel. I didn't realize that time trials counted in the medal count. I apologize for your comment hanging in limbo for so long before being posted. For some reason it was lost in the approval process.



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