Challenges came early in Jeremy Campbell’s life. Diagnosis of fibular hemimelia led to the amputation of his leg at age 1, but he was born with a champion’s heart that wouldn’t let a disability define his future.
A life spent carving out a path as a high-level athlete culminated at the 2008 Beijing Paralympic Games when Campbell took gold in the pentathlon, setting a new world record. He would even be nominated for an ESPY Award, ESPN’s annual recognition for sports excellence.
The Texas native now is training at the University of Central Oklahoma Wellness Center in Edmond as he prepares for another run at the 2012 Paralympics in London. Campbell will be joined by other world-class athletes this weekend competing in the UCO Endeavor Games.
The national competition hosts athletes of all ages with physical disabilities, from those trying to earn a spot on the U.S. team to children just looking for an opportunity to show the world that a disability won’t keep them from the sports they love.
“We have these ‘physical difficulties’ but we are more than capable, and it is not something that hinders our lives,” Campbell said. “We are about overcoming these obstacles and when people see what we are still able to do, it can be very inspiring.”
The Wellness Center has been an official U.S. Paralympic training site since 2005 and is the home of the men’s and women’s sitting volleyball team. Tiffany Wilson, UCO Wellness Center public relations assistant, said that a partnership with the city of Edmond and U.S. Paralympics has kept the games going annually. Twelve sports will be hosted at various Edmond venues.
The Endeavor Games are the culmination of smaller competitions held year-round, and veterans coming home from overseas have increased the need for the program.
“Losing a limb or being disabled in another way left these veterans not knowing what to do,” Wilson said,
adding that learning an adaptive sport is now part of their rehab.
“That way, when they go back to their hometowns, they already know how
to do something. They know how to cycle, they know how to run track or
do archery in an adaptive manner.”
The visibility of paralympians has heightened considerably in recent years, according to Campbell, with high-level competitors being recognized as legitimate star athletes.
“Going from the four or five years I’ve been involved, it has been growing substantially,” he said. “The athletes just keep getting better and better, there are a couple athletes that are running really fast times, and others not in track and field that are doing amazing things.
“One day, hopefully, we will even be integrated into the Olympics.”