AGAINST ALL ODDS-U.S. Paralympic Ski Team member, amputee speaks to students

By Beena Raghavendran

From participating in the U.S. Paralympic Ski Team to writing a best-selling memoir, Josh Sundquist hasn’t let the amputation of his left leg define his life.

At the age of 9, Sundquist was diagnosed with a rare form of bone cancer, which caused the need for an amputation. While doctors predicted he had a 50-50 chance of survival, Sundquist battled the disease and has used his triumph in the face of adversity as fodder for inspirational talks around the country — such as last night’s lecture “Laughing At Our Differences,” which was sponsored by Student Entertainment Events.

“In life, you set out to do something … and all of a sudden, there’s a bull standing 20 feet away from you,” Sundquist said. “I don’t know what a bull is like for you, but I know that life is tough.”

As the author of Just Don’t Fall, the founder of a social networking site for amputees called and a member of the 2006 U.S. Paralympic Ski Team, Sundquist told the dozens of attendees in Hoff Theater that he doesn’t let the loss of his leg get him down.

Josh Sundquist at the Hoff Theatre talking about overcoming adversity following the amputation of his left leg when he was 9. Photo by Jeremy Kim

“In my speeches, I tell stories about my experiences about having one leg and the things I’ve learned along the way,” he said. “My message is about overcoming adversity, and adversity is something that everyone has to deal with as a college student.”

He said he uses his experience to show others that obstacles can be overcome — usually through laughter.

Sundquist said he tries to make his audience laugh as he details various life experiences.

Last night, he recounted a time when his prosthetic malfunctioned — right in the middle of a first date. Instead of letting the incident ruin his outing, he said he made light of the situation, which is a philosophy he extends to the rest of his life.

“I thought, this is my first date, and you only get one first date, so why would I let it be ruined?” he said. “So what did I do? I got up, laughed about it and played that next hole of golf.”

From smuggling a two-liter bottle of soda into a movie theater by dangling it in his left pant leg to running away from a bull in the middle of a field in a failed attempt at cow tipping, several students — such as junior communication major Rebecca Railey — said Sundquist’s humor came full-circle to inspire his audience.

“He incorporated comedy,” Railey said. “If it was serious, it wouldn’t have been as good.”

Sundquist ended the evening by saying he’d found his ‘sole’-mate — a man with the same shoe size and sneaker taste who lost his right leg. The two share their pairs of shoes.

Some students said it was stories such as this one that captivated the audience.

“It was awesome — really highly energized, positive,” said senior environmental science and technology Leaton Jones. “Everyone was interested in hearing what he had to say. I liked how he combined comedy with inspiration to keep the energy up.”

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