Seven competitors line up beside me. The lights reflect off the flags of different countries. The sound of the gun echoes inside the stadium of cheering fans. My body reacts, pushing as fast and as hard as it can. One by one, my competitors fall behind. Push by push, the white line gets closer and closer, until finally I cross it.
We all have dreams. Standing atop the podium in Beijing is mine.
Sports have always been a central part of my life. I come from a very athletic family, including a sister who was a nationally ranked swimmer. From the time I was 4, I was already swimming and playing baseball and hockey. A freak skating accident when I was six forced me to change the way I competed. The formation of a blood clot in my spine due to an on ice collision left me paralyzed.
Being the only kid in my school with a disability forced me to adapt to life as it came. I didn’t consider myself any different than the other kids around me. I always knew that I could do whatever I set my mind on, and that being in a wheelchair wasn’t going to stop me. I graduated from high school with the top marks in my program, winning several math awards. But it wasn’t until two years later when I had an opportunity for a full ride athletic scholarship from a university in Texas that I realized how far sports could take me.
Basketball was my first love. I played for UTA for 4 1/2 years, winning the national championship in 2002. But 8 months prior to the 2004 Athens Paralympics, I quit basketball to focus on wheelchair racing. I had been racing every summer since 1996, and I wanted to know what potential still remained untapped. Making the T54 100m qualification standard was one of the hardest things I have ever done. Men’s wheelchair racing has become highly competitive, and only the best of the best can qualify for the Paralympics. I had already been to 5 qualifying competitions and just missed the standard by hundredths of seconds. I was now down to my final chance. I wheeled up to that starting line ready to give it everything I had…..and at last, I did it!
The 2004 Paralympics changed my racing career. It was the first time I received international classification and was properly classified as a T53 rather than a T54 (ie. I would now be competing against athletes with the same level of disability). I went from a T54 who struggled to make quarterfinals, to being ranked top 3 in the world as a T53.
I have since been able to quit a fantastic job as a programmer analyst to train and compete professionally. I don’t regret the time I lost competing as a T54 because it has only made me stronger and hungrier. I know what it will take to stand atop that podium, and I know that it is within me.
'Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.'
To contact me, please click here