BATON ROUGE — The Baton Rouge Rehab Hospital is not just a place of healing and recovery, it is also a beacon of hope and empowerment for individuals who have faced life-altering injuries.
Within its walls, the Cajun Crushers, an adaptive sports team, embody the spirit of resilience and determination. Comprising a diverse group of 30 athletes with disabilities, the Cajun Crushers compete in various sports, from archery to tennis, defying limitations and showcasing their exceptional abilities.
“We all have different disabilities,” explained Elizabeth Morgan. “”For me personally, with my disability, there are some things I just am not able to do. But being able to engage in sports again has awakened something inside of me, and it helped me to regain some sense of self and sense of worth.”
Supported by the Challenged Athletes Foundation and their own fundraising efforts, two Cajun Crusher athletes showcased their skills at the Endeavor Games in Oklahoma. The Endeavor Games stand as one of the nation’s largest multi-sport, multi-physical disability competitions.
Morgan secured a gold medal in archery within the novice division, as well as a silver in air rifle. Gerald Christophe captured gold in shot put and javelin, along with bronze medals in air rifle and archery, experience division.
This marked Morgan’s second year of competition, and according to her, it differed significantly from her initial experience.
“Last year was my first year, and I had never participated in archery before,” she recalled. “I went there and haI bought my bow and just started going to a range and shooting. That is not the preparation that you need for a national archery event. I had a full-out anxiety attack because I was so overwhelmed in participation.”
This season, things took a turn for the better for both Morgan and Christophe, thanks to the guidance of Ken Hsu, one of the owners of Gotham Archery in Baton Rouge.
“With Ken coaching us, everything started making more sense than when I first began competing,” Christophe affirmed. “From the way you hold your hand to how you draw the bow back, he provided invaluable assistance. It increased my confidence in what I was doing.”
Christophe competes in the experienced archery division, facing athletes who have attempted to secure spots on the Olympic team.
“During my first year in the Endeavor Games, everyone possessed significantly more experience than me,” Christophe remarked. “Nervous as can be, I faced these high-level competitors with my bow. They had advanced equipment, binoculars, stands, and various archery gadgets, while I had just started shooting the bow about three months prior. Needless to say, it was a nerve-wracking experience.”
Throughout the year, all Cajun Crusher athletes train intensively in their respective sports. Christophe and Nealy cherish both the competitive aspect and the camaraderie fostered within the team.
“The support we receive from everyone on the team is incredible,” expressed Christophe. “Each member puts in a tremendous amount of hard work to perform as well as they do. It’s an invaluable experience.”
“I really hope to continue pursuing this sport, and I hope my health and my disability allow me to do so,” Morgan shared. “I’d really just like to encourage anybody else who has an injury or disability and think it means their sporting life is over. I want them to know to just concentrate and focus on what they can do, and just let go of the rest. I want to encourage other people to go this same path. Seek their best. You never know.”