- Associated Press - Sunday, July 20, 2014

FLORENCE, Ala. (AP) - Micaela Tucker was never very fast.

When she played softball and was a cheerleader for Florence Middle School, she was always the slowest, her mother Leisa English said.

“I would be running as fast as I could and going nowhere,” Tucker said. “That was frustrating.”

She had two things slowing her down. The first was a prosthetic walking left leg, which she used after being born without a left leg because of a condition known as amniotic band syndrome.

“They’re just these bands that float around in amniotic fluid and they cut off the circulation, and that’s what happened with her left leg,” explained Leisa English, who is a surgical nurse.

The second was her right leg. Tucker suffered from femur hemobilia, which caused pain in her right ankle whenever she would walk or run.

She always wanted to be competitive, her dad Jason English said.

“She was always just real restricted from the pain in her ankle,” he said. “Doctors put so much emphasis on the leg she was born without, they ignored the problems from the leg she did have.”

In August of 2013, as a rising high school junior, Tucker had her lower right leg amputated.

In October, Amputee Blade Runners, gave her two carbon fiber running blades on the condition she compete in two events for disabled athletes, a run in Nashville, and the Endeavor Games, a Paralympics-styled event in Oklahoma where Tucker competed in swimming, track and sitting volleyball.

Now, Tucker said, she sees her potential.

“I love being active and competing,” she said. “But people treat me differently. I would rather them not go easy on me. What I liked about the Endeavor Games, is everyone was the same. It was more normal than other games because no one was looking at me saying ‘oh look at her leg.’”

Tucker and her family were able to attend the games because of a grant by the Challenged Athletes Foundation.

“A lot of the athletes were her age and she could exchange email addresses and phone numbers,” Leisa said. “The whole experience has boosted her confidence a lot. She has always been out going, but this gave her the opportunity to meet other people.”

Tucker called the experience “uplifting” and “awesome.”

“I’m usually just surrounded by able-bodied people,” she said. “It was really cool. And it was weird, I got so used to be surrounded by them, when I left, it was like everybody has two legs, that’s so weird.”

At the Endeavor Games, Tucker said she saw a different side of herself. Something more relaxed and something more competitive.

“There was this girl that I almost beat every time,” Tucker said with a pause of shy laughter. “It was just this feeling of competition. It was really fun.”

She said it didn’t take long for her to get the hang of the running legs.

It’s just a different muscle movement.

“You just have to train your brain,” Tucker said. “Each time I put them on, it’s weird, but when I start running, it’s normal.”

And Tucker, who will be a senior at Florence High School in the fall, said she is hoping she can compete with their track team.

“I talked to the track coach, and I’m still talking to him about competing with the team,” she said. “I think it’s allowed in Alabama. I think I just have to get used to staying in my lane and stuff.”

For her long-term goals, Tucker is looking at Vanderbilt or Auburn for college. She said she wants to work with disabled athletes, either in sales, marketing or on the science and engineering side of things.

But wherever Tucker goes, now she can run there. And quickly.

“I think it’s cool to see what all I can do,” she said.

___

Information from: TimesDaily, https://www.timesdaily.com/

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