Dozens of cheering faces welcomed home Clearwater’s newest Paralympian on Thursday.
“He’s just an inspiration to anybody and to all of us for his dedication,” said Larry Kimmerling. “I wouldn’t miss this at all.”
Brad Kendell beamed with patriotic pride as he rolled out of a hallway at Tampa International Airport and out into a swarm of hugs and tears. The Team USA sailor wore his new silver medal around his neck.
“I’m going to lose it right now,” Kendell said, fighting back tears. “This means so much to me right now to have all of my family and friends here. All the hard work that we’ve put in, I can’t thank everybody enough.”
The tears were joyful. Thirteen years ago, they weren’t. In 2003, Kendell was in a single-plane crash that killed his fight instructor and father. He survived but lost both of his legs.
That day changed his life.
“We lost a lot 13 years ago and he’s come this far,” said Brad’s mother, Patty. “It’s a great accomplishment for this young man.”
Brad took up his father’s love of sailing after the crash and made it to Rio for the 2016 Paralympics. He and teammates Rick Doerr and Hugh Freund edged out five other countries on the final day with the race of their lives to win silver. An Australian trio took the gold medal.
“Silver is pretty much my new favorite color,” Brad joked.
For him, it’s about more than the medal around his neck.
“Every day I woke up thinking about dad over there,” he said. “I know he’s here and it’s awesome. It really is.”
Brad has been competing on the water for years but this was his last chance to win a medal at the Paralympics. The sport has been removed from the 2020 Games in Tokyo.
(© 2016 WTSP)