Everyone loves stories about people who achieved fantastic things despite their disabilities; they make us feel better about the human race and, by extension, ourselves. Well, these stories aren't like that. These are about people who not only overcame their horrific disabilities, but did so in such balls-shatteringly unbelievable ways that they make the rest of us look like shit in the process. Prepare to feel completely worthless when compared to the awesomeness of ...
#5. Spencer West Climbs Mount Kilimanjaro with No Legs
About 35,000 people try to climb Mount Kilimanjaro each and every year, but only half have what it takes to make it to the summit. Of course, if you ask most people exactly what it does "take" to conquer the highest free-standing mountain in the world, "a pair of legs" will probably be at the top of their list. Spencer West would disagree.
Because, you see, West has no legs and he climbed the damned mountain anyway.
CTV/Mountain Climbing Adventures
Oh, so there's a hole there, and he's just standing ... wait, no.
West had his legs removed when he was a kid due to a genetic condition that left his lower spine poorly developed. Where anyone else would have accepted that they were destined to be Fate's punching bag, West decided to dangle over Fate's face in the night and teabag it -- he's made it his mission in life to redefine the meaning of the world "possible," and what could be more impossible than for a legless man to climb a mountain that kills 10 able-bodied people a year and sends back a thousand more on stretchers?
So, in 2012, West and two buddies decided to tackle the 19,341-foot mountain, spending seven days trekking through jungle, snowcaps, and desert, which of course presented a few practical issues: For starters, as you might guess, that's not the type of terrain you would normally associate with the phrase "wheelchair accessible." No problem: For 80 percent of the trip, West just walked with his arms -- and since arms aren't really designed for walking, he had to equip himself with elbow braces and plenty of anti-inflammatory meds to handle the stress. Also, he needed several pairs of sports gloves and shitloads of duct tape to keep the fabric together while he propelled himself forward in short but sustained strides.
He's the one on the right, in front of the archer and Isildur's heir.
Even with that, by the time he reached the summit his hands were all bloody and blistered ... but he says it was worth it, since he was doing all of this to raise money to provide clean water for African kids. Dude, we get it, you're trying to make us feel terrible about ourselves.
#4. Nick Newell, the One-Armed MMA Champion
Like many kids in his generation, Nick Newell loved watching the Ninja Turtles and the Power Rangers and dreamed of growing up to become one of the greatest fighters in the world. The difference was that Newell only had one-and-a-half arms. Another difference? He actually went ahead and fulfilled that dream.
Makes us feel shitty for abandoning the dream of being a wallaby in a Hawaiian shirt.
Newell, who was born without one arm below the elbow, started out wrestling in high school with predictably abysmal results. This only made him more determined, though, and sure enough, it didn't take long for him to dick-slap the odds, winning more than 300 wrestling matches and then transitioning to mixed martial arts, after presumably deciding that wrestling was too easy. Now he's undefeated with a 10-0 record. Again, the dude is missing the better part of one arm. Don't you usually need at least two hands to kick someone's ass in an MMA fight?
Well, yeah, unless you're Nick Newell, who's actually turned the shit sandwich life dealt him into an advantage. His favorite move consists of latching onto his opponent with his left elbow -- the other guy can't grab him and undo the choke because there's nothing to grab, so he ends up getting grappled to the ground and submitting. That's the move Newell used to become the first one-armed XFC champion, by the way.
That other dude went home and bought a chainsaw.
Being shortchanged in the limb department also makes other fighters underestimate him and try to attack him on his left side, unaware that Newell has become really, really good at both blocking there and retaliating with brutal knees to the face. Here's a clip of Newell knocking out another fighter within seconds by doing exactly that.
Newell says that at the beginning of his career no one wanted to get in the ring with him, knowing that the only two possible outcomes were A) they beat the shit out of a cripple, or B) they get the shit beat out of them by a cripple. Presumably by now they don't want to fight him because they're just afraid.
#3. Jim Miekka, the Blind Gunslinger
Yep: This is not a joke headline. Jim Miekka is a retired physics teacher who lost his eyesight in an explosion when he was 26, along with two fingers. Either one of those injuries alone would keep most people out of the shooting range forever, but Jim Miekka's passion for guns just couldn't be denied.
Michael C. York/Wall Street Journal
The glasses are just to look cool.
And since there was no way for a blind man to take up shooting as a hobby that didn't result in dozens of lawsuits, Miekka went ahead and invented one: He created a special rifle scope that allows him to recognize black-and-white targets and effectively snipe them suckers with better accuracy than people who can actually see them.
Basically, Miekka's gun acts as his surrogate eyes. As he describes it, his "bionic eye" converts light into electricity and then puts that signal in in a way his brain can decode -- namely, sound. The frequency of the sound tells him where the target is: "I hear tick, tick, tick, and I scan around for black next to white, and very quiet next to very loud." So if he wants to shoot, say, a mime, he waits for the loudest sound (indicating white) and squeezes the trigger. Here's a video of him tagging bowling pins at 100 yards:
And before you get to thinking that Miekka is powerless without some high-tech super scope, you should probably know that even with regular pistols, the guy has an accuracy of 80 percent and has yet to put a hole in anyone. So how the hell does he aim? The old fashioned way. By which we mean he has someone (occasionally) tap just above the target ...
Ferdinand Zogbaum/Bay News 9
Simulating the heartbeat he no doubt hears in all living targets.
... memorizes where the sound came from, and then blows it away.
Ferdinand Zogbaum/Bay News 9
The poor bandits' expressions really say it all.
Miekka, who is known as Midnight Gunslinger, can draw, cock, and fire his pistol in about a half-second, which isn't even enough time to fully appreciate the fact that you've just been Huckleberried by the blind Doc Holliday.