From a promising young athlete to a girl battling the rarest form of cancer to an Olympic Games participant, Lacey Henderson’s story is one of maddening hardship, inspiring perseverance and overcoming adversity. After being diagnosed with synovial sarcoma (so rare at the time of Lacey’s diagnosis that there was literally no survival rate) at nine years old, Lacey had her right leg amputated above the knee, and went through years of physical therapy and childhood ridicule. She received a cheerleading scholarship to the University of Denver before becoming a long jumper for Team USA. Lacey is a six-time USA National Champion in the long jump, the world record holder in the pole vault and the American record holder in the long jump. Lacey also participated in the 2016 Parlalympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. More recently, Lacey earned a silver medal at the 2019 Pan American Games in Peru. She is currently training for the 2020 Paralympic Games to be held in Tokyo. In addition to being a world-class athlete, Lacey is a passionate advocate for health, fitness, nutrition, child advocacy and living one’s best life! She started working with children with limb differences in 2010 and continues to use her athletic and social platform to normalize disability in society. In June 2019, Lacey and DCP Entertainment premiered the first season of her podcast, “Picked Last in Gym Class”, which celebrates the adversity that people have overcome before finding success.
Besides surviving a rare cancer as a child; I’ve learned as a woman that life never stops serving hot dishes of shit in life! Leading up to the 2016 trials my parents were having a very messy divorce and I was in a dumpster-fire relationship myself. I had thought that I could push out the problems in my life and still qualify. Despite doing well at team trials I was not initially invited to compete at the Rio Paralympic Games. I was devastated and learned that I was training and living an imbalanced life and ignoring all aspects of who I was and what I needed. I took a trip around the world and ended up in Argentina when I received a phone call that changed my life. I was given one slot to compete at the games a mere three weeks later. Despite being heart broken and not training- I took my chance and became the first woman to make a Paralympic final in Long Jump!
I have an amazing support system, especially a sports psychologist (who happens to help with my life problems too). I found out that I didn’t need to be a lone soldier doing everything by myself. We succeed when we lift each other up and that’s what I needed. When I didn’t believe in myself there were people who reminded me of my greatness, which helped me carry it through to some amazing places.
I was totally afraid! I told my training partner I didn’t think I should go because I hadn’t trained (most people do for the Olympics and Paralympics…) he looked at me and said “F**k training, jump anyways!” and it was exactly what I needed to hear- both literally and metaphorically. He was right, I had worked a lot of my life to a moment and it was more of a betrayal to myself to give it up for not feeling worthy rather than stepping into who I was, honestly in that moment, and giving it all I had.
“Thank you lacey for sharing your GRIT!”
Connect with Lacey via her Instagram