70 minutes | Oct 13, 2020

Finding the Positive & Going After Big Goals with Paralympic Athlete Sydney Collier

At only seven years old, Sydney Collier was diagnosed with an extremely rare condition. In this episode, she shares her incredible story of not letting anything get in the way of accomplishing her goals, and how she keeps an unbelievably positive attitude throughout every step of her journey. Sydney Collier started riding horses at the age of seven and instantly fell in love. Shortly after she began riding, a routine vision screening changed her life in ways she could not have imagined. She was diagnosed with the rare Wyburn-Mason Syndrome, a life-threatening condition that causes arteries and veins to grow together causing vascular malformations (AVMs) inside her brain. Because of their location deep in her brain, her AVMs could not be easily removed. The rarity of Wyburn-Mason Syndrome meant few options were available for treatment. Sydney’s condition quickly started affecting her vision and the control of her left side. Over the course of eight years, she endured a series of experimental treatments including CyberKnife radiation, blood vessel embolization, and brain surgery. During a risky brain surgery in 2009, she suffered a devastating and massive stroke. Despite this setback, she entered a rehabilitation center and was determined to get out of her wheelchair and return to the sport of riding.  In 2010, she attended the World Equestrian Games as a spectator and immediately fell in love with Para-Dressage. With a renewed dedication to returning to riding at a high-performance level, Sydney set out to learn the sport of Para-Dressage. At age 16, she earned a spot on the US Para-Dressage team and was the youngest competitor at the 2014 World Equestrian Games in France. At age 18, she won the 2016 US Para-dressage National Championships and became the youngest member in the equestrian portion of the 2016 Paralympics in Rio as a part of Team USA. She placed 7th overall in the highly competitive para-dressage grade 1B. She has dedicated her life to service and maintains a busy schedule combining athletic, equestrian training, guest speaking, volunteering, babysitting, and giving riding demonstrations at a variety of events. She is also attending DeVry University on an Olympic Scholarship, majoring in communications. Alongside these activities, she continues training to earn a place on 2021 Tokoyo Para-Dressage Team and help the USA stand on the medal podium. In this episode, we discuss: ·      Her story of being diagnosed at a young age with an extremely rare condition. ·      The role horseback riding played in her determination to rehab after her surgeries and the mental and emotional escape it provided from – as she says – “all the medical mumbo jumbo.” ·      How finding Para-Dressage changed her life and her plans for her future. ·      The importance and power of setting big goals no matter what obstacle you have in your life. ·      Reframing everything that life throws you as a positive. ·      How truly supporting people means not putting ceilings on them and even allowing them to fail. ·      The importance of celebrating all the small goals along the way to big goals. ·      The incredibly special relationship she has with her horse and the power of the horse-human connection. ·      The spiritual beliefs that help her maintain her positive mindset. ·      And her advice on how we can all believe in ourselves a little bit more so we can go after our big goals. You can find and follow Sydney here: Sydsparaquest.com Instagram: @sydsparaquest Twitter: @sydsparaquest
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