LivAbility Magazine

Meet Erik and Kym

A young couple who appears to be in a barn looking out on this setting sit together. He is a wheelchair user, manual wheelchair. He wears brown cargo pants and a blue shirt. She is a very fair-skinned woman in a dress sitting on his lap. Her dress is floral. Her legs are crossed. She wears sandals. She holds a very large wooden H.

by Emily Lopex

She just wanted him for the car, Erik teases.

Kym disagrees while laughing.

Erik Hightower and Kym Crosby met three years ago at the Olympic training day in Chula Vista, CA. After that brief meeting, they met again in Canada at a competition. Kym didn’t know anyone but Erik so she hung out with him. This is why Erik jokes that Kym spent so much time with him because he was the one with a car. A friendship blossomed and a relationship developed after Kym admitted her feelings for Erik in a late night text in January 2015. They became engaged on May 8, 2017 while at the Olympic training center.

Hightower and Crosby are quite the pair; both professional athletes for the USA Paralympic team. Crosby was born with albinism. She has no pigment in her hair, skin or eyes and she’s legally blind with 20/400 vision. She competed in the Rio de Janeiro games in 2016 and took bronze in the 100 meters. Erik has spina bifida and has been competing in wheelchair racing since the age of 10. He competed in the Paralympics in 2008 in Beijing and in 2016 in Rio.

As athletes, the pair say they’re competitive about everything.

“We can’t go grocery shopping without making bets on who can guess the total price closer or whatever,” Hightower said. “We’ll be betting like, ‘Well if I win, you’ve got to buy the next round of Dutch Bros,’ or something like that.” Crosby agrees.

“Yeah, I mean just with everything. We have two bathrooms. We’re like, “Who can clean their bathroom faster?”

This connection between them is evident. They both describe themselves as fun and outgoing and you can tell they enjoy bantering with one another.

Crosby had never dated anyone with a disability before Hightower. She said that she was used to being the only one with a disability before she got into Paralympic sports.

“She is the legs, and I’m the eyes,”

Crosby will get things for Hightower that he can’t reach and he will guide her in locating items.

Their families and friends are supportive of the relationship and are excited as they prepare to get married.

“Just take your time,” Crosby said. “I feel like a lot of couples either rush into stuff or they rush to break things off if they see the first sign of things not working. I would say work it out and just be patient with each other, and I think that that will really help couples in the long run.”

Hightower has similar views.

“Just go with the flow. Don’t try too hard to get into a relationship because usually that’s when it won’t work or when it won’t happen. Just be yourself and just let it happen”.

Photo by Danica Peters

Portrait: Emily Lopex

Emily Lopex

Emily Lopex has a reputation for an almost irrational love of the chocolate-frosted donut and for for being overly assertive. Her legislative advocacy journey started at 15, under the guidance of teachers who wanted to curb her enthusiasm for debate (read: arguing openly in class) into something more productive. Currently, Emily is an active participant in the disability community as the Advocacy Support Specialist for Ability360.