CONCORD, Mass. - It’s not hard to pick out Nico Calabria jogging with his varsity soccer teammates at Concord-Carlisle High School outside Boston. He is and always has been the kid with one leg.
What’s hard to do when watching Nico is believe what you are seeing.
“My disability doesn’t define who I am,” said Nico. “My disability gives me a challenge everyday that I need to overcome and I think that challenge has made me a stronger person.”
Born without a right leg and hip, Nico was raised by parents who wanted their son to grow up normally, not expecting special treatment.
“You can look at what’s missing, or what you have,” said Nico’s father, Carl Calabria. “So when I describe my son, I will never say he’s missing one leg, my son has one leg. And that’s the way we look at it.”
Nico was just five when he decided that his traditional prosthetic leg was simply holding him back.
For Nico, forearm crutches made him stick out, but they also allowed him more mobility.
“I can play soccer on my crutches,” said Nico. “I can run. I can climb Kilimanjaro.”
That’s right, Kilimanjaro. At 13, Nico became the first one-legged climber to reach Africa’s highest peak. He also skis, dives, and he loves volleyball.
Nico wrestles, placing third in the state, against two legged opponents, in his weight class.
But it was two weeks ago, when he scored his first varsity soccer goal, that Nico became famous. The clip of his goal was loaded onto Youtube where it has gotten more than a million hits.
“I don’t think it was my teammates thinking Nico has one leg and he just scored a goal on varsity,” said Nico. “It was more like, that was a nice goal. No pity. No differences. I just want to be seen as an equal, as someone that is a competitor.”
Nico pads his crutches for safety. Citing the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association ruled that he could use them. He is quick to push back against anyone who suggests that playing with crutches gives him some kind of competitive advantage.
“I suggest they try it and then tell me if they think it’s an advantage or not,” said Nico.
This past summer, he scored a goal for the U.S. Amputee Soccer Team in Mexico. Not one to dream small, Nico now has his eye on the Amputee World Cup.
“I’ve got one leg. You get one life,” said Nico. “I’m not going to let the hand I was dealt in life dictate what my life is going to be.”
A picture is worth a 1,000 words, especially when it leaves you speechless.