“The day I made the first Paralympic team in London in 2012 was a bittersweet moment for me,” said Jarryd Wallace. “It was actually less than a mile from the hospital where I had my amputation.”
The decorated middle-distance runner from Athens, Georgia, had faced an agonizing prospect two years before: An injury common to runners, known as compartment syndrome, meant that much of the muscle in his lower leg had died and that he was likely to lose his leg — and, with that, his shot at a collegiate track career at the University of Georgia. But Wallace went for it, deciding that even an amputation couldn’t stop him from running.
“When I made the decision to have the amputation, I also made the decision that I was going to make that team,” he said.
Wallace went into surgery in 2010 with the Paralympics qualifying times in the back of his mind. He trained with the mindset of a runner who likes to make sure the labels of water bottles face a certain direction. A group of college students he mentors on weekends sometimes tease him by slightly rearranging his belongings at home.
After finishing sixth in the 600-meter event in his Paralympic debut in 2012, Wallace has become a contender for gold in the 100-meter sprint in Rio. He broke the world record in the event in Toronto at the 2015 Parapan American Games, clocking in at 10.71 seconds.
— World Para Athletics (@ParaAthletics) July 23, 2016
He and his Paralympic teammates will be “a force to be reckoned with,” Wallace said.
Back home, Wallace has spent a lot of time with other amputees in the Georgia community. He helps patients adapt to a new reality with a prosthetic, working part time for a company called Shamrock Prosthetics. He also started A Leg in Faith Foundation, which gives grants to amputees 18 years old and over who are dedicated to becoming future U.S. Paralympians.
“Really, your only limits are the ones that you put on yourself,” he said.