It was a thrilling year for the Paralympic Movement in the United States and around the globe. Records were broken and legacies were made. From Dec. 18-30, USParalympics.org will unveil the Top 13 moments of 2013 for U.S. Paralympics in chronological order.
In the summer of 2008, Jerome Singleton was part of a U.S. 4x100-meter T42-46 relay that captured the Paralympic gold medal in Beijing.
Four years later, he again qualified for the relay in the Paralympic Games in London, and he hoped for the same result.
Instead, the team finished third and then was disqualified due to an exchange-zone violation during one of the baton handoffs.
“We didn’t expect to get bronze,” Singleton said. “Then, to get DQ’d, that was just awful.”
Ten months later, on July 27, Singleton and his U.S. teammates received a bit of redemption with their gold-medal finish at the 2013 International Paralympic Committee Athletics World Championships.
“We worked hard for this and we came here with a goal,” Wallace said after the race.” We needed clean exchanges after London when we had a little bit of a disappointment getting disqualified, and we got our redemption.”
The Americans finished with a time of 40.73, besting the previous world record (41.78, held by South Africa since May 2012) by more than a full second.
“It felt good,” Blake Leeper said. “I had a tough week taking nothing but silvers, but you know, when I have these guys getting me started I knew that we had no choice but to take gold. It shows that individually you struggle, but as a team we come together. We deserve the gold and we take the gold.”
Team USA beat second-place Brazil by nearly a second.
“We wanted to go out this year and make a statement,” Singleton said. “We only have three legs between the four of us, but we can compete at the very top of the field.”
For winning the world championship and securing that world record, the four sprinters on that relay (Singleton, Richard Browne, Leeper and Jarryd Wallace) were selected as the United States Olympic Committee’s 2012-13 Paralympic Team of the Year.
“I’m so blessed to be part of the Paralympic Movement,” Singleton said. “This is such an honor.”
“It’s an absolute honor to win this award,” Wallace added. “We all have amazing individual accomplishments in our careers, but I think I can speak for the team in saying this one is the most special.”
Singleton and Wallace, along with teammates Brown and Leeper, accepted the honor on Oct. 29 in New York.
The road to the world record was challenging for all four members of the 4x100 team.
Singleton was born without a fibula in his right calf and had to have his leg amputated when he was just 18 months old. Wallace, who ran cross-country at the University of Georgia, lost his right leg after developing compartment syndrome. Browne lost his leg following a freak accident when he slipped in a Laundromat and crashed through a glass door. Leeper, meanwhile, was born missing both legs and has used prosthetics since he was 9 months old.
All four men took different paths toward discovering the Paralympic Movement and all four have been able to bask in the glow of success on the track. Singleton is a two-time Paralympic medalist. Wallace competed in the London 2012 Paralympic Games and won a gold medal at the 2011 Parapan American Games. Leeper captured four medals at the world championships, and Browne was a stunning silver medalist in the 100 in London.
Now all four are world champions. And each won at least one individual medal at the 2013 world championships as well, contributing eight of Team USA’s 52 medals earned at the competition.
Their success is further etched into the U.S. Olympic Committee’s record books for being named the Paralympic Team of the Year.
“The Paralympic Movement is near and dear to my heart,” Singleton said. “It changed my life, and I’d like to be a part of it having that impact on the lives of others.”
“I used to have no self-confidence — I wouldn’t even wear shorts in public. Suddenly I was at the second-biggest sporting event in the world, and everyone embraced their disability.”
― International Paralympic Committee contributed to this report