Jeremy Campbell really has nothing to prove anymore as an athlete, except to himself. He is the two-time reigning Paralympic champion in discus. In April 2012, Campbell set his first world record, 60.19 meters, and then a couple of months later, he pushed that distance even farther to 63.45.
He is setting (and re-setting) the bar in his sport, as the only Paralympic discus thrower to shatter the 60-meter mark, and remains its top competitor in 2013.
Things are good in Campbell’s world, but the native Texan is still pushing hard to produce longer throws. He is in Lyon, France, now to compete in 2013 International Paralympic Committee Athletics World Championships, July 19-28, and hopes to eclipse his own records.
“I think I can go further,” Campbell said, basing much of his optimism following his victory at the 2013 IPC Athletics Grand Prix Final held in Birmingham, England, at the end of June. “I threw a 62.05 (meters) last weekend, and frankly, I know I could have set another world record but I didn’t have much gas in the tank.
“Last year, I peaked a bit early in the season. This year, we’re waiting to peak at the right time, for worlds, and I am training and tapering to get myself to be more patient in Lyon.”
In addition to his on-the-field success, he’s now an ESPY award winner, claiming the 2013 Best Male Athlete with a Disability honor Wednesday although he was unable to attend the ceremony in Los Angeles because of the world championships. Jessica Long, a U.S. swimmer, won the female award for the second consecutive year.
“Last time, I was playing it cool, I was secretly excited but trying not to show it,” two-time nominee Campbell said. “This time, I’m showing how excited I am. It’s awesome. I am honored to have that opportunity to be up there and be nominated. It’s really cool be recognized at that level, and see support I’m getting and the sport is getting. That’s really gratifying and that’s why we work so hard. We want to be the best.”
Three of the four other nominees in Campbell’s category are gold medalists from the London 2012 Paralympic Games: Raymond Martin (four-time gold medalist in track), Bradley Snyder (two gold medals, one silver in swimming) and Jeff Fabry (gold medalist in archery). Tyler Walker, the other nominee, is a Paralympic skier who is vying to medal in Sochi next winter.
Campbell, a competitor in the F44 class, was born without a right fibula and had his leg amputated when he was a toddler. He competes on a carbon-fiber prosthetic leg, generating the spinning power in the ring, normally driven from the legs, with his left leg, core and upper body.
Campbell, 25, is working on maintaining a simple and clear philosophy: he does not throw for numbers, or to implicitly go for another world record. He wants to keep driving for the best throw possible, both in technical and mental terms.
“I just want to win, first and foremost,” Campbell said, laughing. “I had to learn not to have a number in my head, as in, ‘I want to throw X.’ That doesn’t work. If there is a world-record throw in me, it will come if I do everything right to get there. The number takes care of itself.
Campbell has made adjustments in the weight room this season, hoping to become stronger. He has his sights on expanding his career, wanting to compete against able-bodied athletes, possibly going for the Rio de Janeiro 2016 Olympic Games by earning a spot in the U.S. Olympic Team Trials.
Making the transition from Paralympic competitions to able-bodied demands more strength and technique from Campbell, as the discus is heavier, and he has to find another source of power to compensate for his prosthetic leg.
He is working on being more patient in the ring, letting his stronger body work efficiently. Learning to be patient, and letting his form uncoil smoothly, is an evolution.
“I’ve always been a powerful athlete, that has never been a problem,” Campbell said. “But getting to a max strength level always been an issue, with my lower legs, with the prosthetic. I don’t think I’ve ever really maxed my potential in the weight room, so I know there is more room for me to grow.
“Strength and power levels change everything. I am focusing on becoming more consistent as a thrower. I need to relax, let the throw develop, and when you’re stronger overall, you can really feel more comfortable doing that.”