By Rich Myhre Herald Writer
Being an Olympian is one of the greatest honors an athlete can have.
Being a Paralympian means no less.
Just ask Desiree Miller, a 2005 graduate of Monroe High School who represented the United States last summer in women’s wheelchair basketball at the 2012 Paralympics in London. Miller, a finalist for The Herald’s 2012 Woman of the Year in Sports award, was appearing in her first Paralympics for the U.S. team, which had won the gold medal at the 2008 Games in Beijing.
Miller, who was born with a rare form of spina bifada that leaves her with little feeling or movement in her legs, can walk short distances with leg braces, but generally uses a wheelchair when covering longer distances.
She began playing wheelchair basketball in Seattle as a teenager, soon had a scholarship to play at the University of Alabama, and within two years was a member of the U.S. national team. She was an alternate for the 2008 Paralympics, but played for the U.S. at the 2010 world championships and the 2011 Parapan Games, winning two gold medals.
In London, the U.S. went 3-1 in pool play, losing only to Germany, and then beat Canada in the quarterfinals to reach the semifinals. Unfortunately, the Americans lost a heartbreaker to Australia in the semis, 40-39, and were defeated by the Netherlands in the bronze-medal game, 71-47.
Still, the experience of representing her country was very meaningful, just as Miller had known it would be.
“To have USA on my chest and to be representing my country in all aspects of that tournament, it makes me very proud to think about that,” she said in an interview before leaving for London.