The Road to the Paralympics During a Pandemic: Catching up with Noelle
Editor’s Note: This is an update on Noelle’s story, which was previously featured in Inspire and can be read here.
Six months ago, if you asked Noelle Lambert where she would be at this very moment, her answer would be, “Tokyo, Japan.” After setting a new US record for the 100-meter race in a competition last year, Noelle was on the fast track to the 2020 Paralympics as part of Team USA. However, things quickly came to a halt when the COVID-19 pandemic struck, causing the Paralympics—much like everything else—to be rescheduled to 2021. Noelle is taking it all in stride and persevering, though—a perspective she gained after an accident in 2016 resulted in the amputation of her left leg. “At first I had a lot of different emotions about [the Paralympics being rescheduled],” she says. “But now I just look at it as I have another year to get better, to get stronger and to get more comfortable.”
Finding out the 2020 Paralympics was no longer happening came on the heels of a dramatic, unprecedented pause in Noelle’s intensive training schedule. First, the Boston facility where she trains temporarily closed down due to the pandemic. Not long after, her personal gym shuttered as well, leaving her with just minimal equipment to train at home and an outdoor track nearby—not an ideal situation for an athlete working tirelessly to compete against the best in the world. But, she adapted, remaining active and taking on other hobbies to cope with long weeks at home.
Like many twentysomethings, the TikTok app quickly became a go-to resource to cure quarantine fatigue for Noelle. “I made a few [TikToks] with my mom where we were both just terrorizing each other. We did that for a couple of months and then I actually made some pretty cool ones [about my story],” Noelle notes. Her TikToks, especially those detailing her accident and recovery journey—which included surgery at Boston Medical Center—quickly gained an impressive following.
Noelle also spent time, like many other New Englanders, mourning the loss of Tom Brady to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Last year at Sweet Feet for Strikes—an annual bowling event featuring the New England Patriots hosted by BMC—Noelle fulfilled a lifelong dream of meeting the football star. Brady took the time to chat with her, pose for photos and even signed her prosthetic leg. And although she is disappointed Brady is no longer a Patriot, Noelle still looks back on that day with delight: “I will literally cherish that moment forever. I’m still rocking the signature on my leg. I embrace it all the time.”
Posing the question, “Is there anything she can’t do?” Noelle quickly adjusted to the new normal by continuing her work in coaching, motivational speaking and philanthropy. The Born to Run Foundation—Noelle’s non-profit that donates prosthetic legs to children and young adults in need—made two more donations during quarantine, bringing the organization’s total donations to eight since its inception. The first of the two donations was done via Zoom, but she was fortunate enough to give the second donation in person. “We actually got to meet up at Duxbury Beach. We did a lot of social distancing of course, but [the child] was able to put the prosthetic on and go in the water. It was so awesome to see,” she recalls fondly.
Noelle is wise beyond her years, proving there are silver linings in every situation, good and bad. Whether she is training for the Paralympics during a pandemic, managing her foundation or using TikTok as a platform to inspire others, one thing is certain: Noelle’s positive outlook and sheer determination never waver. “I think one of the biggest things I portray to everyone I speak to is just because something like this is happening to you or something traumatic has happened to you doesn’t mean your life is over,” Noelle concludes. “I am living proof that you can do whatever you put your mind to.”