My Experience at the 2015 Paralympic Track and Field Championships at Hamline University in St. Paul, Minnesota
Last month I competed in my first Paralympic National Championship meet in St. Paul Minnesota at Hamline University. I was able to win the National Championship in my class of F33, (athletes are separated into classes by level of disability) with a throw of 5.64m (18.5 feet).
Although I did not reach my personal goal of 6m (19 feet, 8 inches) I was the #1 ranked thrower in my class for the entire throwing season by a considerable margin ...
(There is another gentleman who belongs on this list that competed at Nationals with a throw of 3.69m)
I competed in two events this year and I thought that my throws of 5.83m at the Desert Challenge Games in Tempe, AZ and 5.64m at the National Championships in St. Paul, MN were going to get me into the Para Pan American games this August. With a Minimum throwing standard of 5.5m and being meters, and over a meter ahead of the rest of our Nation I thought I was headed to Toronto!
However when Team USA was announced on July 6th, I was not on it. I was really disappointed that was not on the team and frankly, as National Champion I couldn’t understand why. Don’t they want their National Champion to represent at a big event like the Para Pan-Am Games? I certainly wanted to represent my country in a event that boasts 1600+ participants, representing 28 countries with competition in 15 sports.
All I’ve ever wanted to do since my high school wrestling days was represent my country in a sporting event because I am not able to defend my own freedom in the military. (I once represented Team USA in the CP-ISRA World Games in Nottingham England, 2001 as part of the Cerebral Palsy powerlifting team. I would love to compete in that event again for another chance at placing but it appears that they have removed powerlifting from the offered sports).
I did a little research to try and find reason why I wasn’t selected to the team and this is what I found. In the sport of Track and Field the USOC sets a number of different standards that an athlete must reach and although I met the standard to qualify for the Para Pan-Am Games, there are a number of standards that I have not met in accordance with the USOC. There is a 6m standard for World Team B and emerging athletes, 7m for the World Championships (I was hoping to have a chance at reaching this distance in Toronto), National Team B is 10m, and National Team A 10.42m. I don’t know what all these standards mean but I know if I reach the National Team A Standard, I would be on any team heading where Track and Field goes and that may be the case with the National Team B Standard also the only difference being the level of support an athlete gets from the USOC.
As a nation the US has never had a strong shot puter in my class, the last representative in the Paralympics was in 2000 at the Sydney Paralympics and I currently throw further than the marks he listed back then. The current National Record for my F33 classification is only 5.9m and I plan on crushing the record next year (and each year after that).
At this point you might be asking yourself, “So if he was only 7cm off a National Record, why would he not get to go?” I know I was, and then I figured it out. What is the basis for the majority of decisions in the world today? Money! (That is why I attempt to raise my own money via JustMaxFitnessNutrion.com) Why does the USA set such a high National Team standard? If you were to look at the current National Team B Standard of 10m and the current world ranking list an athlete would be firmly solidified in the second spot, a silver medal (I have currently fallen to 17th in the world). The US isn’t paying for an athlete to travel in a sport the nation isn't strong in if he or she isn't going to medal.
Although I don’t agree with this philosophy, I do understand it. I don’t want to go to the Paralympics and finish in last place. I compete to be the best and want to win Gold. I do see a bit of a double standard though; the USOC has talked about wanting to increase Cerebral Palsy participation in the Paralympics, and here I am! Why not let me compete in Toronto and get that international exposure? The National Standards are so high that many young athletes quit before they even get started. I talked to a number of athletes at nationals who felt this way.
If anyone took a look at that same world ranking list again and focused on the countries competing at the Para Pan Am Games, I would finish in 3rd out of 5 athletes. A bronze medal certainly isn’t what I train for but it gives me international experience and a chance at a bronze medal to keep me motivated during the long process of the next 4 years.
So What is Next?
I am disappointed that my throwing season ended a few months shorter than planned but in a way it has motivated me. I truly thought I had done enough, was good enough to be selected to Toronto and then the additional time between meets would have enabled me to get to 7m and qualify for the World Championships in Doha, Qatar, leaving me a long shot for the 2016 Paralympics, but it was not meant to be.
Before he passed, legendary fitness model Greg Plitt said “The the thing about good enough is we don’t know if it’s enough until the nth hour. And if we come up short doesn’t that suck!?” Whether it be because of work, family, or just an over all lack of energy I fell into that trap too many times saying “training has been good enough this week” and sure enough, coming up short sucks! He goes on to say “If today you never say good enough, tomorrow you will have enough.”
I vow over the next 4 year cycle to never say “good enough” in my training cycle. I was feeling down for a little over a week about not being selected, but my good friend played some Greg Plitt off YouTube and told me to get off my ass! I have a 10.42m mark to hit!
My first goal is certainly to get that 6m mark and keep setting National records, steadily increasing to 10.42m before the next world championships in 2017. I have revamped both my training and my diet, working on core and flexibly while trying to perfect the throwing form.
I talked to my sponsor, Advanced Hearing Group of Mesa, AZ and they will be sponsoring me for the 2016 Desert Challenge Games, May 18-22. I have $400 left from the Go Fund Me account that I created for the 2015 season (this will remain open for the 2016 season if you wish to support).
For the 2016 Track & Field season plan on attending (scheduling and funding permitted):
- Desert Challenge Games May 18-22 in Phoenix
- Endeavour Games June 9-12, 2016 in Edmond, OK – I also plan on making a return to powerlifting at this event.
- Michigan Victory Games in East Lansing, MI
- Glasa Adult Regional Championships in Lake Forrest, IL
Lastly, I want to thank my group of supporters. I may not be a part of a team in WI, but I don’t train alone. Thank you to those who come to the Body Basement and train, Advanced Hearing Group of Mesa, AZ for their monetary investment in JMFN, to my good buddy Ricky who built this site and gives countless pro-bono hours to help me create a successful web presence, to the dozens who donated on Go Fund Me, to my followers on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, to the customers of Just Max Fitness Nutrition, to my wife who makes sure my throwing chair is set up properly in the backyard before each practice, and to my boys – you are the reason I do what I do, to show you the only limits in life are the ones you place on yourself.
“If you don’t take life to the max, you’ll never get the max out of life.” –Greg Plitt