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ABILITY: Team USA Paracyclist Clara Brown Shifts the Narrative on Para-Athletes

24 Aug 2021

"I consider myself very capable. I consider all para-athletes very capable. But, there's the perception that we are lesser. We are elite athletes." – Clara Brown.

Team USA Paracyclist Clara Brown is an elite athlete. She is a para-athlete and an elite athlete who embodies the true meaning of determination as she trains for Tokyo 2021. In the new film ABILITY, Clara shares her story of exploring obstacles in pursuit of athletic greatness as a walking quadriplegic. She shares her daunting workouts and relentless spirit to help shift the narrative around para-athletes and show what is really possible.

racer with black lazer helmet

“With our film ABILITY, our goal is to shift the narrative of what it means to be a para-athlete,” explains co-directors Anna Wilder Burns and Jordyn Romero. “Typically, the media showcases para-athletes with focus on their impairment. Instead, our approach was to portray Clara as the elite athlete she is through hard workouts and training sessions, capturing her in her strengths and leaning into her firsthand experience being labeled para.”

rider in the forest

Born and raised outside of Portland, Maine, Clara is a lifelong athlete. Her life changed forever when she had a traumatic accident at gymnastics practice at age 12, leaving her with a broken neck and a damaged spinal cord. Doctors were unsure if she would walk again, but after years of physical and mental obstacles to regain function, Clara continues to adjust to life as a walking quadriplegic. Her primary motivation to keep making physical progress was to become an athlete again.

racer with a green top

Clara was determined to partake in an athletic pursuit powered by her own means, and in college, she discovered she could modify a road bike to work with her limitations. She fell in love with cycling instantly. Her passion for bikes led to an invitation to the Olympic Training Center, earning a spot on Team USA. Since then, she has become a dominant competitor and has found huge success on the world stage, solidifying her spot on the Tokyo Paralympic team.

racer holding her lazer helmet

ABILITY looks back at Clara's inspiring story of resilience while exploring the obstacles she continues to face both mentally and physically in her pursuit of transcending her circumstances and shifting the narrative around para-athletes. “Through her story, we show what she is capable of,” says Wilder Burns and Romero, “Amplifying her as a badass elite athlete who doesn't let her circumstances define her.”


Watch ABILITY here: