Sport is usually about expanding one’s aerobic capacity. Knackered Downunder spots a story where that logic gets turned upside down

A 15-year-old who was born with a rare congenital heart defect, or “functional single ventricle” — which means she is missing one of the four chambers of the heart, and the blood vessels are reversed, so that there is no pump to take oxygen to her lungs — is rewriting sports history. Her story shows how a combination of technology and determination can redefine the boundaries of those suffering from some form of impairment.

According to the Observer, American MacKinzie Kline, who survived heart surgery soon after she was born in 1992 and was given only five years to live, is fast becoming a golf champion and ranked as the world’s number one 14-year-old golfer in 2006.

Mac — as she is known — lives with 80 per cent of the average person’s oxygen and has no aerobic capacity at all. But by age 10 she had beaten girls four years older to become California junior champion: a feat she repeated the following year, the newspaper says. Then, at age 12, she qualified for the US Women’s Amateur Public Links tournament and now competes at the country’s highest under 18 level, in the USGA’s Junior Girls’ Championship. She is expected to turn pro in three years’ time.

Annika Sorenstam, one of world’s best female golfers, said of her:-

She is amazing, and the true definition of a grinder. Her accomplishments speak for themselves: her inspiring story, of overcoming odds and of chasing her dreams both on and off the course, is a life story in and of itself.”

Last month, Sorenstam invited Mac to play as a guest in the LPGA tournament of which she was the host. Mac was allowed to travel across the course in a motorised cart, which — and this is where the technology comes in — carried a special oxygen machine from which she breathed between strokes. She thereby became the first disabled athlete to compete in the LPGA tour.

The machine, called the Eclipse and designed by SeQual Technologies in San Diego, has been on the market for only a year, says the Guardian, adding, “It’s the size of a small suitcase or large laptop and magically performs the job of several hefty oxygen canisters by producing medical-grade oxygen out of thin air. ”

Mac’s father, John Kline thinks the ever-present backdrop of death might be what gives Mac her abilities:-

You know, if you ask her she’ll say, “It doesn’t matter to me. I don’t care if it’s 15 years or 30 years.” But I really think she thinks about it. Maybe that’s why she has a better perspective on where she’s going, what her time frame is, and how she’s going to get there – which I haven’t seen in many 15-year-olds.”

One in every hundred newborns suffers from a congenital heart defect. In the US, 40,000 affected children will be born this year alone.

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