Laura Goodkind has never had it easy, but Goodkind is a winner at heart.

Born three months prematurely, Goodkind grew up with cerebral palsy and later developed a range of other health challenges, including a mast cell disorder and swallowing disorder, the latter of which sent Goodkind into near death septic shock twice. These conditions made normal employment very challenging, which eventually resulted in Goodkind falling into homelessness.

Goodkind also happens to be a two-time Paralympic athlete, an adaptive sports ambassador and is poised to compete in the upcoming Angel City Games presented by The Hartford this weekend.

This journey was neither a simple nor straightforward one, but one that required patience, persistence, and a constant push for positivity.

As a child Goodkind was a natural athlete and played sports as much as possible. Yet sooner or sooner or later Goodkind would hit a certain level of play and be unable to surpass it.

“It was always like I could get to the elite level, but never really had great success because of some sort of limitation that my disability had,” said Goodkind.

All of that changed when Goodkind discovered the world of adaptive sports.

Adaptive sports are designed for children or adults with physical or visual impairments, and provide the playing area and equipment necessary for these individuals to excel. Goodkind had always shied away from them, but after the near death septic shock experience, followed a health professional’s advice and gave them a try.

Goodkind quickly fell in love with rowing, a sport that provided excellent health benefits and eventually took Goodkind to the 2016 Rio and 2020/1 Tokyo Paralympics for the trunk and arms mixed double skulls.

The biggest outlet in Los Angeles for adaptive sports is Angel City Sports, which offers free adaptive sports clinics and hosts the Angel City Games, an annual adaptive sports festival with competitions, clinics, and special events.

Goodkind competed in the first Angel City Games in 2015 and has remained closely involved in the organization ever since, participating as an athlete, an ambassador and a volunteer, even through incredibly turbulent times.

“A few days before the (2015) games were put on I became homeless and so sports really became my way to manage my reality,” said Goodkind. “As opposed to like a lot of the other people I was around, who chose to alter their reality with drugs or alcohol, sports became like my medicine, my peace.”

Through a combination of LA’s housing crisis and the complexities of navigating the subsidized housing, Goodkind wound up living out of a car for a year and a half while continuing to play with Angel City Sports.

Although Goodkind was able to acquire a Section 8 housing voucher relatively easily, no landlord on the Westside was willing to accept it and moving further afield was not an option as during that time period Goodkind had around 200 appointments at UCLA Medical Center.

Managing all of these stresses, health challenges and physical pain required monumental tenacity, but anyone who talks to the very chipper Goodkind would never imagine these past trials.

“I would say in my early twenties, I realized something has to change, like I have to look at the world differently or I’m not going to be around much longer,” said Goodkind. “So I try to think of what each experience presents as an opportunity.”

For example when a fracture from a mountain biking accident added to an ever growing list of ailments, Goodkind did not get down in the dumps but used the rest time as a chance to strengthen relationships with friends and do more reading.

Similarly when the pandemic hit and all the hard work put into training for the 2020 Paralympics appeared to be going down the drain, Goodkind tried to reframe it as a chance to get even more training time in, even if Covid restrictions meant rowing pairs had to practice separately.

That patience and attitude shift paid off and in August 2021 Goodkind and rowing partner Russell Gernat competed in the mixed double skulls for Team USA Rowing in Tokyo.

Up next for the rowing superstar, is the Angel City Games on Dec. 18 and Dec. 19. After the games went virtual in 2020, Goodkind cannot wait to return to the adaptive sports festival in person. Angel City has provided Goodkind with not only an outlet for sports, but an incredible group of friends and also job opportunities through the networking component of the games.

“Angel City is more than just sports, they want to grow the entire individual; they want to help us figure out how to live in a world that’s maybe not always created for us, and also put us in the workforce and show that we still have opportunity,” said Goodkind. “So the games are a really great place because it’s sports, it’s community and it’s networking.”

The games are open to children as young as six and adults as old as whatever, as well as veterans. This weekend’s games will feature 16 different sports and 20 paralympians, who are coming to coach, mentor and participate.

Visit www.angelcitygames.org for more information.

Clara@smdp.com