Headed to Tokyo: Hear from three Nebraska Paralympians

NORFOLK, Neb. - Three out of 61 Track and Field Paralympians from across the country are Nebraska natives.

The Olympics and Paralympics are set to begin later this summer.

"It was so exciting hearing my name called," said Taleah Williams, a Norfolk native and Doane University graduate. 

"I kind of blacked out during the reading of the names," said Omaha native Eva Houston.

"To make a paralympic team is one of the hardest things to do," said Cheri Madsen from Nebraska City.

Williams, Houston, and Madsen are taking their talents to Tokyo.

For Houston, this is her first Olympic experience.

"I didn't have the expectation to make it," said Houston, a junior at the University of Illinois. "I just wanted to go to trials and do my best."

Houston said she is looking forward to meeting her new teammates.

"I feel so seen and I feel so heard because a lot of the times people don't know how to handle adaptive athletics, but everybody in that arena is going to understand."

"Eva has come to Nebraska City and we've trained together," said Madsen. "When she was in high school, I gave her one of my old racing frames."

Madsen is a paralympic veteran, with a history of gold medals and world records since 1996.

"I like to see where I stack up against the best in the world," said Madsen.

Madsen says she's happy to see other Nebraskans on the team.

"It just shows that the sport has grown," said Madsen. "When I was doing this in the 90s, I was the only one."

Though they all come from the Cornhusker State...They have their own reasons for competing.

"I do it because growing up I was super insecure about myself, about my disability, so I do it to show myself just how far I've come," said Williams. "It's almost like showing the world that we can do it too."

"Having the opportunity to go where the best para-athletes are in the world," said Houston. "I find that really empowering."

Due to COVID-19, the games look different this year, but Madsen encourages the young athletes to take in the experience.

"Just believe in their training and just trust the process," said Madsen. "Be calm when they get up to that line and I think everything will be fine."

The women will head to Tokyo on August 20.

There is also another Nebraskan woman headed to the Paralympics. Natalie Schneider, a Doane University graduate, will be competing in wheelchair basketball.