Pam Fernandes Biography
Claim to Fame: U.S. Paralympic cyclist and professional motivational speaker.
Diabetes Type: 1
Diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at 4 and legally blind from complications at 21, Paralympic cyclist Pam Fernandes has been a spring of motivation for many with her inspiring story and sincere words of support.
Growing up with five brothers, one of whom died as a result of diabetes, Pam understood the intrinsic futility of misery and the self-defeating cycle depression breeds. Instead of being the victim, Pam became the champion, playing both high school basketball and softball. Despite blindness, thirty operations and dialysis for kidney disease, she was able to remain in school, graduating and attending Wheelock College in Boston, where she earned an undergraduate degree in Education.
In 1985, following her graduation from Wheelock and while still undergoing treatment for kidney disease, Pam started the “Team with a Vision,” a racing team made up of blind, partially blind, and people with sight to compete in the Boston marathon and raise money for the Massachusetts’s Association for the Blind. Pam also wished to show the world that people with disabilities were not crippled from doing great things or limited in their ability to succeed. The “Team with a Vision” marked the beginning of a life-long dedication to charitable causes and social awareness issues.
After having achieved so much while still restricted by dialysis, Pam became frustrated and opted for kidney transplant surgery. After a period of recovery, she had the freedom to push her former boundaries and began cycling. Able, for the first time, to experience speed and freedom, Pam became hooked and trained to the point of fanaticism. As she trained, she found her body becoming more resilient and her oval health improving. Her diabetes became more controlled and she began to feel physically fit, something she never experienced before cycling. For the first time, her body matched her spirit and she became an unstoppable force, competing in regional, national, and international cycling competitions.
Pam won national cycling titles for eight consecutive years, including three Paralymic National Championship medals, and three medals at the European Track Cycling Championships. In 2000, at the Sydney Paralympic Games, Pam and partner Al Whaley won the gold medal for the 1-kilometer time trial and set a World and Paralymic record. As a result of her tremendous dedication and optimism, Pam has been awarded the U.S. Olympic Spirit Award and continues to tackle obstacles with dignity and honor.
As a person living with diabetes, Pam has worked to spread awareness of the disease and the dangerous and devastating complications that can arise as a result. In 2001, she was made the American Diabetes Association's National Spokesperson for The Diabetes Alert Campaign and serves on the Board for Joslin Diabetes Center in Boston, Massachusetts. Pam is also a member of the Diabetes Exercise and Sports Association, as well as the Women's Sports Foundation, the United States Association of Blind Athletes, and the New England Women's Fund. Pam is also a proud member of “Team Ability,” the first corporate sponsored team of athletes with disabilities.
As a professional motivational speaker, Pam makes it a point to share her struggles with honesty and candor, not shying away from the unflattering or the unpleasant. She shares her story in the hopes of speaking to individuals, who feel hopeless or discouraged by their illness, urging them to be confident and to take matters in their own hands and find something that will make them shine. A true champion, Pam continues to motivate and inspire on and off the bike.
1 – All American Speakers. Biography of Pamela Fernandes, http://www.allamericanspeakers.com/sportspeakers/printerbio.php?speaker_id=1297 (Accessed 12/6/11.)
2 – Inspiring Speakers. Pamela Fernandes, http://bureau.espeakers.com/inpr/speaker.php?sid=4048&showreturntoresults=true (Accessed 12/6/11.)
3 - Telegram & Gazette. Fernandes is focused on Paralympic gold, http://www.ltolman.org/99arch/822fernandes.htm (Accessed 12/6/11.)
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