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Take 5: Winner of two bronze medals, Kerri Morgan, talks Paralympics, the hype and her plans

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Sept. 13, 2012 - Kerri Morgan is, quite understandably, pretty jet lagged. After 24 days in London, where the 38-year-old competed in the Paralympics and won two bronze medals, she’s back home in St. Louis.

“I was definitley a little bit more seasoned and mature athlete going into London this time and was able to sneak on to the podium this time, so that was pretty cool,” said Morgan, who finished 5th in her first games in Beijing. 

Also cool, Morgan leaves today for Washington, D.C., where she, other Paralympic athletes and Olympic athletes will meet with the president and get a tour of the White House. 

“So me and Michael Phelps will be hanging out at the White House,” she said.

Before leaving, she took a few moments to talk about the games, her races and where (Rio?) she’s headed next.

Beacon: Congrats on your two bronze medals. Can you tell us about the two races, how you feel like you performed and how it felt to medal?

Morgan: It felt awesome to medal. I did the 200 meter race first, and a couple days later I had the 100 meter race. They felt pretty good. Unfortunately I didn’t have very good starts in either of those races, but thank goodness my acceleration came through and I was able to finish really strong

This year’s Paralympics offered many more ways for people to tune in and watch the games. Why do you think the games were more high-profile than in years’ past?

Morgan: I think it’s just been a lot of work through the media. It’s pretty cool this time around, now that I say I went to the Paralympics, people get it. After Beijing, I would say I went to the Paralympics, people were kinda looking at me a little strange, like, what’s the Paralympics? You mean the Special Olympics? They weren’t quite putting it together. But this time, I didn’t feel like I had to explain it so much because it’s out there a little more. And I think it’s a combination of a lot of things.

I think Oscar Pistorius has helped a lot. I think he brought a lot of media exposure to the Paralympics and what they are. I think that helped. And I think people are just overall becoming more aware, and I think that’s great.

Despite that, the games still weren’t carried on any major networks as the Olympics were. What do you think it will take to get the general public and the big networks more engaged in the Paralympics?

Morgan: I think they’re getting there. They definitley did more this year than they’ve ever done before. I think it’s slow but sure. It’s a little bit of a shame because other countries seem to already be there from what I heard.

In England, they had all the events constantly running on their channels. The media and the way they approached how they covered the Paralympics over in England was amazing. So I’m kind of hoping the U.S. will catch up.

Even from Beijing to now, there’s already a lot more, so I’m assuming up to Rio we’ll get better, but I don’t see any reason the Paralympics shouldn’t be aired just like the Olympics, so hopefully one day we’ll get there.

It seems like it's about the narrative they’re telling about the athletes and the perception that people have in those countries of the athletes. At Paraquad they shared YouTube clips with me of commercials leading up to the games that showed the athletes as super human in Canada and Great Britain. How do you think you and other Paralympic athletes are perceived here in the U.S.?

Morgan: I think the history to it is more that we’re inspiring and we’ve been through a lot. We’re not so much seen as athletes but as people with disabilities doing some sports, but not as athletes doing these really cool things.

I think that’s what London was able to portray. Hey, yeah, they’re people with disabilities, but look at them, they’re awesome athletes. I’m hoping that will come about in the United States, and I think it is, but we have a little ways to go.

What’s next for you?

Morgan: I am back to work, I’m also, in the midst of all this, trying to compete my PhD, so truly my next big thing is being able to have some time to focus on finishing my dissertation. I returned to work and I returned to rugby practice last night, it’s the beginning of the season, so I’m going to recreationally play some rugby with my club team, focus on my school work and my work and we’ll see what happens.

People keep asking me if I’m going to make a run to Rio, but I think I’m just not quite ready to answer that question. I’m going to see how my body heals from all this training, see if my right shoulder will hang in there, and just see what happens with life.

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