In the gym, Jacqueline Pryndik is like anybody else.
Sweating. Grunting. Succeeding.
“I enjoy the challenges my gym life has to offer,” Pryndik says. “I’m no different than the next person struggling for the last rep.”
Even so, there was a time when it was difficult for Pryndik to tie her shoes and zip up her coat, much less lift a 20-pound dumbbell.
Pryndik, a professional caregiver who lives in Vancouver, British Columbia, was born without fingers on her right hand. Fetal alcohol syndrome thwarted her skeletal development in the womb As a result Pryndik’s hand stops just past her wrist and part of her palm.
Growing up, people were often unkind.
“As a child and teenager I was taunted about my hand and names were given to
me that referred to my hand. It was hard,” Pryndik says. “I did not want to go to school and was constantly reminded of my deformity by my peers. Bullying then wasn’t as big of a deal as it is today.”
But, she adds, “it didn’t stop me from defending myself.”
That spirit and confidence stayed with Pryndik as she got older. She realized that even though some doubted her abilities, she could do nearly everything people with two hands can do – just differently.
Pryndik in time realized that she wasn’t embarrassed, ashamed or insecure about her disability. Others were.
“To be born with one hand is different from losing a hand,” she says. “People whom lose a body part need serious rehabilitation mentally and emotionally and physically. I just needed to deal with others insecurities about my deformity. But it has never been myproblem.”
It made sense that the longtime athlete who was considered for the Canadian Armed Forces would start hitting the weight room. Now 37, Pryndik lifts several times a week alongside bodybuilders with two hands. She holds her own.
“I hate asking how to do something. I need to learn for myself,” she says.
Pryndik uses a prosthetic device called a TRS when she lifts dumbbells and jumps rope. She grips a bar with her wrist to do lat pulldowns and finds that she can adapt to most gym handles.
“I also have a bionic hand which is used for day to day living but do not use it as I find it to be difficult to adjust to,” Pryndik adds. “It was supposed to be for weightlifting, but the thumb wouldn’t lock. When I tried it doing a dumbbell chest press the thumb moved, and the 20-pound dumbbell came out and almost smacked my face! End of story.”
Women and men in the gym often tell Pryndik she has inspired them. She is grateful for the feedback, but says she simply sees herself as another woman putting herself first – so she can stay happy, healthy and whole, no matter what anyone else says.
“I think you have to have an open mind and ambition in life to go through life that will be full of challenges,” Prydik says. If you’re young and being bullied, it’s not your issue. It’s theirs and they don’t understand. In my experience they didn’t want to understand; they saw me as different – and I was!”
Adds Pryndik: “I have to convince others in my day to day life that I am capable of what they may think otherwise. So you know what you can do and as long as you have the determination and strength within. You can accomplish whatever you dream of.”