Columbia Paralympics champion is honored County sets today aside for athlete Larry Hughes

September 06, 1996|By Alisa Samuels | Alisa Samuels,SUN STAFF

County Executive Charles I. Ecker has declared today "Larry Hughes Day" in Howard County in honor of the Columbia resident who won the gold medal for discus throwing in the 1996 Paralympic Games last month in Atlanta.

"Dr. Ecker will congratulate him for putting Howard County on the map as far as the Olympics go," said Mike Duffy, a county spokeswoman. "He's a gold-medal winner."

Hughes, who set the world record in discus throwing for disabled athletes at the Paralympics, will receive a proclamation at 10: 30 a.m. today in Ecker's Ellicott City office.

"Larry Hughes inspires children, youth and adults who are physically, emotionally or mentally challenged to rise above those barriers to achieve their personal successes; and his skill, tenacity and structured approach proclaim him as an example for all," reads part of Ecker's proclamation.

When contacted yesterday at his home in Columbia's Oakland Mills village, Hughes said he had not been told that today would be Larry Hughes Day. But he said he is honored nonetheless: "It means barriers that were once there [for the disabled] are starting to deteriorate."

The Paralympics is a worldwide competition for those with disabilities. This year, more than 3,500 athletes from 127 nations competed.

Hughes, who gives his age as "over 45," set the world record for discus throwing by the disabled, at 41.98 meters in his first appearance at the Paralympics. He also placed sixth in the shot put and javelin competitions.

Hughes said he would have performed better at the Paralympics if he hadn't cracked his elbow in an accident before the meet. "I would've won everything," he said.

When not competing in track and field events, Hughes serves as executive director of Maryland Wheelchair Athletics Promotions Inc., which he operates from his home. The nonprofit organization helps provide opportunities to those with disabilities.

A former corporal in the Marine Corps, Hughes served in Vietnam, where he was injured by shrapnel and began using a wheelchair. He has multiple sclerosis and lupus.

But he said he never gave up. He got into sports -- and gained respect. Said Hughes: "Those with disabilities can be role models."

Pub Date: 9/06/96

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