My Gold Medal Journey started the first time I played wheelchair basketball just a few short months after my injury. I was immediately “hooked” as I realized it was the same, fun, and competitive game that I had known on my feet. Shooting, dribbling, passing, height, speed, and teamwork were still the important parts of the game. For me, the most difficult part was learning to push and maneuver the wheelchair. I immediately set my sights on purchasing a new sports wheelchair so that I could maximize my potential and compete at the highest levels.
The highest level of competition in wheelchair basketball is the Paralympics. I set my sights on making the 1988 team that would represent the United States in Seoul, South Korea. Fortunately, my skills were recognized by my peers and I was invited to tryout against the top 60 players from around the country. I made the final cut and my official journey began. My teammates and I would meet several times each year at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs as we prepared for the competition.
I will always remember rolling into each opening ceremony as 100,000 fans waved, cheered, and welcomed us to their country. I will cherish the memories of 1988 and 1992 as the USA beat Holland and was awarded the Gold Medals as our National Anthem played. As a competitor, there is no greater feeling than knowing that you’ve outdone the greatest competition the world can offer. And, even more, knowing that my wife, children, parents and siblings could share the moment.
Although initially disappointed at winning the Bronze in 1996 in Atlanta and 2000 in Sydney, each Paralympic experience has brought new insight and meaning as I have gained an appreciation for the athletic abilities of all athletes with disabilities. At each paralympics, I have had the privilege of watching some amazing accomplishments.
I remember watching the blind play soccer as they followed the beeping ball. I remember watching a dwarf bench press nearly 300 pounds. I remember watching an amputee run the 100 meters in 11 seconds and a blind long jumper soar over 20 feet. All individuals with disabilities have been blessed by the paralympic movement and the awareness that has been created. An equal thanks goes to all of the companies and individuals who have invented and manufactured equipment that has allowed the athletes to showcase their talents.
Whether Gold or Bronze, I have learned to enjoy the journey as much as the destination.