Megan Blunk is one step closer to her goal of representing the United States in wheelchair basketball in the Paralympic Games in Brazil in 2016. Blunk recently made the USA team for the Pan-American Games in Toronto next month.
“It means I’m on the right track,” Blunk said. “It’s been my goal since my accident to make it to Rio.”
That accident — a brutal motorcycle crash in 2008 where the rider lost control of the bike and slid off the road — caused Blunk, the passenger, to break 18 bones and become paralyzed from the waist down. Since that day, Blunk, 25, has set her sights on the Paralympic Games.
“Making this team means I still might make it,” Blunk said. “It also means I’ve gotten to where I need to be at this point in my life. It’s helped me believe in myself. I’ve had a hard time doing that. Once I make it to Rio, I’ll have recovered through all of my insecurity and self-doubt.”
Blunk, a Gig Harbor resident, has battled depression throughout her entire life. Before the accident, Blunk played various sports and excelled in them, but said the depression prevented her from pushing herself to the point she wanted to.
“(The depression) got really bad in high school,” Blunk said. “I started slacking off and just quit caring about things. It made it easier than facing things. Nothing I ever did was ever good enough. I just quit pushing myself. I just kind of goofed off. I wish I would have actually did the things I wanted to do instead of holding back. Any sport I did, I could’ve gone far in it. Everyone around me always told me I was good enough. I wish I would’ve believed in myself.”
After the accident, her depression worsened. For about five years, Blunk cried nearly every day.
“After my accident, I didn’t think I could do anything anymore,” the Peninsula High grad said. “When I found out there were wheelchair (sports), it was a second chance to do that again.”
So Blunk pushed herself to the brink — harder than she’s ever pushed herself before. Through the deaths of two of her closest friends, to earning a scholarship to play wheelchair basketball at the University of Illinois in 2011, to making the Pan-American USA squad.
Her depression has gotten better with the help of weekly counseling and anti-depressant medication, and her outlook on life is improving. Sometimes, she forces herself to take a step back and look at all she’s accomplished since the accident.
“It feels good,” Blunk said. “I get happier every day. I kind of struggle with that. I’m still working on it. I need to get better at celebrating the accomplishments I’ve made and realizing where I am. Sometimes, it can be hard to see that.”
She’ll have competition in the final tryouts to make the Paralympic team, but as always, her biggest battle will be with herself.
“If I didn’t make (the Pan-American team), my chances of going to Rio would’ve gone down quite a bit,” Blunk said. “I’ve beaten my depression so much, I feel like I just have a little more to work on to get back to who I know I can be, instead of always doubting myself. That was a really important tryout for me.”
In the midst of depression, Blunk’s outlook has remained steady: Push through it, and it will get better. Blunk also participates as a para-canoeist for the Gig Harbor Canoe and Kayak Race Team — although she’s put that on hold, at least for now, to focus on basketball.
“(GHCKRT coach) Alan (Anderson) was a little bit bummed but he understood,” Blunk said.
Blunk has one more year of eligibility with the University of Illinois wheelchair basketball team. She’s graduated with a degree in psychology in 2014 and is currently enrolled in graduate school, studying social work. After school, Blunk wants to give back the community and help people through difficult times.
“I want to be a motivational speaker,” Blunk said. “I’ve done some speeches around Washington — Gig Harbor and Tacoma. I want to do a lot of different things. I want to go into hospitals and try to motivate people, help them see their life isn’t over. I thought mine completely was. It felt like everyone was looking at me like it was. It would’ve helped me if someone would’ve told me that it would be OK and there’s still so many things I can do.”