From NSU to London
Professor Carries U.S. Flag and Competes at 2012 Paralympic Games
As a five-time Paralympian, Scott Danberg was the perfect choice to carry the U.S. flag and lead his teammates in the march of the opening ceremonies at the 2012 Paralympic Games in London.
As an adjunct professor at the Farquhar College of Arts and Sciences, Danberg is a role model to his students every day.
Danberg, a dwarf, is a Paralympic medalist in track and field who teaches adaptive physical education and sport at the college. After training six days a week for months in preparation of the London games, he placed seventh in the finals of the discus event on September 4. Afterward, Danberg was eager to return to the classroom for the fall semester and share his experience with his students, who watched portions of the games and cheered him on in class.
Danberg and other Floridian Paralympians and Olympians were honored during the Miami Dolphins-New York Jets halftime show on September 23.
"For me, teaching is a way to give back a little bit," said Danberg, who has a 25-year career in track and field. "For somebody who was able to compete five times at the Paralympic Games, it was a perfect course... a perfect fit for me."
The 2012 games in London drew 4,200 athletes from more than 160 nations and 227 athletes from the U.S.
For Danberg, leading Team USA as the flag bearer at his fifth trip to the Paralympic Games was, in his words, "a dream come true." He competed in his first Paralympic Games in 1988 in Seoul, South Korea, and won the silver medal in the javelin event.
Since then, Danberg competed in track and field events at the Paralympic Games in Beijing, China (2008); Athens, Greece (2004); and Barcelona, Spain (1992). He also holds world championship medals in the discus and shot put.
Danberg loved the challenge and competition of sports from a young age. He began competing in his early 20s through the Dwarf Athletic Association of America, whose members play basketball, swimming, track and field, and other sports.
"I always kept in shape. I was the one that no one really wanted to get into a fight with because I was always very muscular and powerful.
"I recognized my joy in sports," he said. "Initially, I tried it all. When I saw I could compete internationally as a thrower, I latched onto that. It was appealing to be able to compete against the best in the world."
In college, he studied kinesiology "thinking that if I learned more about the human body, then maybe it would help me.
"The field of kinesiology has rewarded me in knowing how to take care of myself and how to train correctly. Participating in the Paralympics has exposed me to the best training, nutritionists, and the best strength and conditioning coaches in the country," he said.
Now, Danberg shares that knowledge and experience with NSU students.
"As an elite athlete, his experience in competition and training adds real-world insight to his lectures," said Elizabeth Swann, Ph.D., associate professor and athletic training program director at the college.
"Professor Danberg not only has a passion for sports, he lives his dream.
"His commitment to education and his relationship with the students are at the highest level. He has been outstanding in the classroom and provides opportunities for the students to work with athletes and disabilities. The students would not have this opportunity if it were not for Scott's dedication. And how many professors can bring their Olympic medal to class?"
Danberg's course work focuses on bio-mechanics, athletic training, motor learning, and exercise science. In addition to teaching and training every day, he is director of fitness at the Pritkin Longevity Center & Spa in Aventura, Florida.
"The best education I can provide exercise science students is to give them an awareness of different disabilities, and that includes identifying the risk factors as well as the training we can do to bring out the best in these individuals.
"In the classroom, I'm always making the correlations between the disabled and able-bodied populations," he said. "Everything I do is a real-life example. I want students to have an awareness of disabilities and drop their own barriers as far as relating to people with physical disabilities.
"Everybody has a side of them where they feel inadequate, or what I like to label 'the last one picked.' In the able-bodied world, I was always the last one picked. It wasn't until my involvement with Dwarf Athletic Association of America that I went from the last one picked to the first one picked."
At age 50, Danberg has achieved many of his goals. "Now I'm really challenging myself to stay in optimal condition and defy age in the sense of, can a 50-year-old compete against a 20-year-old? I proved that at the world championship in 2011 by placing third and beating a lot of younger competitors."
And he has no plans to slow down. Danberg wants to participate in the 2016 Paralympic Games in Brazil. If he does, he will be the only thrower to compete in six Paralympics Games in one sport."Physically, being an elite thrower demands strength and power. I'm proud of making five games at age 50. To compete at 54 or even 58 would be astounding. I'm always striving for my personal best. If I throw a personal best and I get fourth place, I still walk out a winner."