His resume is filled with numerous athletic accomplishments, and not the average “played on recreational soccer team for four years” or “won Little League All Stars tournament.” Instead of these every day activities, which seem to be as common as raindrops in Seattle, his collection of sporting awards, including a gold medal, consist of titles that rival only the best in the world. And he’s only 22 years old.
His name is Steve Ferreira and he’s a student at Bellevue College, making his way to classes, reading books, and studying for exams just like the 18,000 others who consider this to be their daily routine. But don’t be fooled by Ferreira’s humble demeanor as he goes through the schedule typical to college students—unless you consider being a member of Team USA competing at the IWAS (International Wheelchair Amputee Sports) Junior World Championships, “typical.”
Ferreira, who has cerebral palsy, graciously allowed me an interview last Tuesday afternoon regarding his remarkable talents and courageous actions even in the face of adversity.
At age 18, Ferreira began participating in track and field while specifically focusing on his favorite events: shot put and discus. As a 2007 graduate of Liberty High School in Renton, his name became largely recognized at the National Junior Disability Championships two years ago. Incredibly, he was able to break three U.S. records for shot put (3.33 meters), discus (6.98 meters), and club (17.56 meters), which is when the participant throws a pin-sized wood piece as far as possible.
Ferreira has also had the honor of attending the IWAS Junior World Championships the past three consecutive years. In mid-July during the 2008 games, a bronze medal was awarded to him for his third place shot put throw of 2.67 meters (3-kilograms). Although he did not rank within the international top three for the discus (his preferred event), the then 20-year-old posted a personal best of 8.61 meters.
The following summer in Nottwil, Switzerland, he was able to travel alongside 17 of his fellow US teammates, all vying for top scores on the turf and track. Even though the Renton native placed an incredible eighth and ninth in the world for discus and shot put, he seemed somewhat disappointed by the results. I couldn’t help but remind him (and myself!) that being within the universe’s top 10 for anything was surely more than most people will ever be able to claim.
But the golden moment in Ferreira’s sporting career arrived in 2010, when he became the best IWAS Junior discus-thrower in the world. The games were held in the Czech Republic during the summer. Along with his gold medal, Ferreira was awarded seventh place overall in shot-put.
Besides being an inspiration for virtually all those he meets, Ferreira includes public speaking as one of his passions, which he has been doing for schools and organizations since he was 15. When asked the main reason behind his speeches, Ferreira replied, “People view disabled people differently, and don’t treat them equally…I want to raise awareness about disabilities.”
The mentality that has propelled Ferreira forward in athletics and life seems to be composed of pure perseverance, determination without limitations, and the bravery to make a difference.
“Keep positive and do the best you can to accomplish your goals,” are the words of encouragement he offers others.