Archive for February 6, 2012

Wrestler continues to compete despite missing arms

February 6, 2012

By Brandon Marshall

Some athletes are born to defy the odds. This couldn’t be more true for 14-year-old wrestler Ryan Leonard, who was born without arms.

“I couldn’t live without it,” said Leonard, a freshman at Eastern Randolph High School. “It’s my favorite sport. I like the individual part about it. You can’t blame anybody for it and they can’t blame you.”

Becuase Leonard is missing both his arms, each time he steps onto the mat he reminds himself that he’s at a disadvantage from his opponents, but that he’ll have to work harder.

“I’m looking for him to give it his best,” Leonard said. “I know he’s not gonna let up on me, so I got to do what I got to do.”

For some, wrestling without arms may pose a challenge, but for Leonard, it doesn’t stop him from competing, and to his teammates, Leonard is just another wrestler on the team.

Valentine Navarro is Leonard’s closest teammate and he said Leonard is not easily discouraged.

“He doesn’t get put down, like I thought he would be,” Navarro said. “He does everything by himself.”

Navarro and Leonard’s friendship extends off the mat, too. Navarro helps Leonard tie and untie his shoes, gets him Gatorade and help him with his wrestling uniform.

“I love Ryan.” Navarro said.

And Leonard appreciates everything Navarro helps him with.

“That’s my dude.” Leonard said. “He helps me with everything, getting my shoes on, helps me with everything.”

Leonard said he hopes to continue winning during the wrestling playoffs which start later this month.

Communications student experiences culture in a different way

February 6, 2012

By Sophie Nielsen-Kolding

In 2011, School of Communications senior Daniel Koehler won the Lumen Prize, a $15,000 grant from the university to fund an exceptional academic project. He took his prize money, bought a camera and a plane ticket to Zambia.

Koehler lived in Uganda until he was ten-years-old with his parents, who were doing missionary work there, and growing up, he learned a culture very different to what he would experience when he moved back to the United States.

“That’s kind of where my comfort zone is, in some ways,” Koehler said, “and I would definitely love to pursue a project over there and kind of connect a little bit more with my roots again.”

So, more than a decade later he decided to film a documentary in the continent that he called home for so many years.

The University of Zambia

The University of Zambia

Koehler lived in Zambia for six months with a host family, taking classes at The University of Zambia and spending time at a farm shooting his documentary. While he used his communications skills to complete a project he was passionate about, returning to Africa was special in a very personal way.

“When I went back to Zambia all of that, kind of, I don’t know, came alive again,” Koehler said. “I was like ‘Wow!,’ you know, I really miss some of the culture.”

Koehler wanted to live like a local, so Koehler said he tried hard to learn as much as he could about Zambian culture, sharing mealtimes with them, playing with his host “sisters” and helping out around the house in a lot of ways that are different from life at Elon.

“I could go through the list of things that were different,” he said. “I mean, washing clothes, for example, was an all day affair. Scrub the clothes by hand, then you dry them all on the line.”

Dan Koehler in Zambia

He became close with many of the people he worked with on the farm as well as his host family and his roommate Dumi.

“[They were] definitely a second family, and I miss them a lot,” Koehler said.

Readjusting back to college life was tricky, and Koehler said he misses some of the values that he saw in Zambian culture.

“There’s just such a focus on people because you don’t have a lot of computers,” he said. “You don’t have a lot of electronics, you don’t have a lot of these other things and so the focus is…people.”

After a semester of shooting, Koehler came back to Elon with a semester of editing to do, but Koehler said that all the hard work paid off.

The documentary is now complete, and it’s official screening will be in April.

“It was like making the dream become a reality basically.”

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To hear more of Koehler’s experiences in Zambia, watch the extended interview below.


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