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Amputee Hang Glider Amazes, Inspires Those Around Him

Though his left leg was amputated after a motorcycle accident at age 17, 49-year-old Mickey Sarraille feels whole and free when he is hang gliding, a recreation he has pursued for 27 years. "When I'm up there, I lose my disability," says Sarraille. "To climb 10,000 feet and fly across the valley, there is nothing like the freedom of flying." Sarraille, a former president of the Lake Elsinore Hang Gliders Association in southern California, recently participated in the King Mountain 2009 National Hang Gliding Championships. Colleagues in the hang-gliding field see him as an equal. "From many hang gliders' perspective, they have a hard time even understanding how he does it," says longtime hang-gliding instructor Joe Greblo. "He's definitely an inspiration to us all." Sarraille was first exposed to hang gliding in 1982, five years after his motorcycle accident, when he would watch his friends David Gibson, John Heiney, and Vince Collins, some of the top hang gliders in the world. "I watched them and said, "I have to do that," Sarraille says. While most participants in the sport use both legs for taking off and landing, Sarraille has learned to hop on his right foot before launching himself, then using the powerful right foot to brake himself at landing. "He's got true grit and determination, which are two things that most people who try to hang glide lack," Gibson says.

August 20, 2009

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