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Hanna Lagerqvist from Sweden spends most of her time in a wheelchair due to cerebral palsy, but her Special Olympics sport – equestrian – is acting as a physical therapy tool for her, according to Patricia Meegan, a volunteer physical therapist and athletic trainer helping at Healthy Athletes during the World Summer Games. See video of Hanna riding.

Because the horse’s body is both wide and warm, it is helping to loosen the muscles in her lower body and holding on to the horse is helping her develop upper body strength and conditioning. When Hanna visited the Healthy Athletes FUNfitness venue, she amazed the volunteers there by being able to walk and even run for short distances. “When she runs, surprisingly, it is actually much more fluid than when she walks,” Patricia said.

Still, Hanna has limited flexibility and movement in her legs and ankles, both due to her condition and spending so much time in a wheelchair. Patricia showed Hanna and her coach some exercises that will help.

“The exercises will make her more comfortable, and as she gets older, will ensure that her physical condition does not get worse,” Patricia said. “If she can work at work, she can become more flexible.  She is not destined to stay like this. Her life is a process of recovery, and she can get better – just look at what she can already do.”

Hanna’s coach, Ulrika von Knorring, said she is also constantly impressed with what Hanna can do. “They told her parents at birth that she would never walk, so seeing her here is great.”

And getting better. The day after she visited Healthy Athletes, Hanna won a silver medal in the team relay event. “Hanna had a really good time,” Ulrika said. “Everything is perfect for her.”

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