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Employee’s son wins gold medal at Paralympic Games

Forgive Tina Seidenfeld if her mind is on other things besides work this week. The Best Buy employee’s son, Ian Seidenfeld, just won a gold medal at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games.

Ian, a 20-year-old student at the University of Minnesota Carlson School of Business, represented the United States in table tennis. His father, Mitchell Seidenfeld — himself a former Paralympian gold medalist in table tennis — was on the sidelines as the coach of Team USA.

“There are no words to describe the feeling of how proud and excited I am for Ian and what he has done at the age of 20,” said Tina, a senior transportation analyst in parcel operations at Best Buy. “He showed so much focus and determination in his last match to defeat his opponent (who won the gold in the 2016 Rio Paralympics).”

Tina and her daughter, Emma, were unable to travel to Tokyo because of COVID-19 restrictions, so they cheered along while watching the match with extended family in California.

“I was overwhelmed with different emotions — super excited for his win, so very happy that Mitchell was able to be there with him to experience it together, and sad that we weren’t able to be there in person to support and celebrate with him,” Tina said.

Tina, Mitchell and their two children have dwarfism, a short stature that results from a genetic or medical condition. While Tina has the most common form of dwarfism, achondroplasia, her husband and son have pseudoachondroplasia, and her daughter has a blend of both.

Other than their physical difference, Tina wants people to know that her family isn’t much different from everyone else. They have the same dreams and aspirations but might have to work a little harder or differently to show people who they are and what they can accomplish.

She and her husband are incredibly proud of both their children and feel grateful to see them navigate their lives with grace.

‘Parallel’ competition

Ian has been chasing his Paralympic dream since he was around 5 years old. He started competing internationally at age 12, and this was his trip to the Paralympic Games. 

The competition is held a few weeks after the Olympic Games and focuses on celebrating the diversity of people with physical disabilities. The “Para” in Paralympics refers to being “parallel” with the Olympic Games. The Paralympics are for individuals with physical disabilities, such as cerebral palsy, paraplegia or dwarfism. Athletes must pass stringent qualifications to compete at elite levels. There are 28 different sports in the Summer Paralympic Games.

Tina said there’s an awareness gap when it comes to the Paralympics and physically disabled athletes. It’s her hope that people will take the time to educate themselves on physical disability and inclusion and diversity, specifically in athletics. She recommends the documentary Rising Phoenix, as a great starting point to learn more.

“Having a disability should never stop you from doing what you want,” Tina said.