Paraplegic rower hopes to inspire others with can-do attitude

A paraplegic rower competing in the USRowing Masters National Championships in Sarasota is inspiring others.

Elliot Vasquez faces challenges head-on every day.

"All of my rowing is done with my upper body," he said.

Nine years ago, Vasquez was in a car crash that left him paralyzed from the waist down. But, his strength can be seen and felt on and off the water.

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"I utilize all my back muscles, chest muscles, arm muscles," he stated.

Vasquez is preparing for the USRowing Masters National Championships.  at Nathan Benderson Park. 

Elliot Vasquez was paralyzed from the waist down in a car crash nine years ago.

Elliot Vasquez was paralyzed from the waist down in a car crash nine years ago. 

He started rowing less than a year ago and Sunday will mark his first competitive race.

"I just always wanted to never, number one, not put my disability as a reason to not do something, but to also just fuel out this competitive nature that’s in me," he said.

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He began rowing with New College's New Crew and quickly became an inspiration to others.

It took Elliot Vasquez a year to recover after a car crash paralyzed him from the waist down and found that rowing allowed him to still pursue his passion for competitive sports. 

"We have athletes of all abilities and skills and it really shows that this is what sports are about. It’s about being inclusive and providing opportunities to live healthy, active lifestyles," said Stephen Rodriguez the president of Nathan Benderson Park Conservancy.

Vasquez uses a boat with a special seat to keep him strapped in. He hopes others see what he's doing, as a message they can do it too.

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"That comfort zone feels amazing, but once you get out of that comfort zone you will be like I’m so ecstatic that I got out of that spot," Vasquez said.

Elliot Vasquez is competing in the USRowing Masters National Championships in Sarasota. 

After all, life is what you make it, no matter what hurdles you face.

"This is what I know. This is my life. And I make use of it. You can structure your mind to worry about what you don’t have. Until you structure your mind to focus on what you do have, life is amazing," he said.

Vasquez races Sunday at 8 a.m. The USRowing Masters National Championships.  is free to attend.