Growing up in basketball-obsessed Indiana, Jeffrey "Scott" Martin had a different dream to someday become a professional baseball player. While his dreams transformed after Little League, Martin was an all-around athlete who went on to compete on the varsity wrestling team throughout high school.
But Martin’s dream of being a professional athlete wasn’t that far off, just his sport of choice. Today Martin is one of the top para-cycling athletes in the country.
“Like many Paralympic athletes, Scott has embraced cycling as a means to rebuild his life. We brought Scott to the Olympic Training Center for some testing, and were impressed not only with his potential on both the road and the track, but also with his solid work ethic,” said Ian Lawless, high performance director for U.S. Paralympics cycling. “Scott is that rare athlete who has the potential to win medals in multiple disciplines, and he really embodies the spirit of the U.S. Para-cycling program.”
While Martin tries to take the road to the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games one step at a time, he can’t deny what the experience would mean to him.
“I think it would be one of the greatest things to happen in my life for me to be able to represent the United States in cycling. It was great to represent the country as a Marine, and to go on and compete as an athlete for the U.S. would be amazing.”
But for Martin, the path to what could be one of the best moments of his life grew out of pain and adversity.
Martin joined the Marine Corps after graduating high school in 2000 and served three tours of duty in Iraq as a staff sergeant. Martin suffered two traumatic brain injuries in two separate incidents. In both incidents, Martin’s Humvee rolled over an improvised explosive device. Martin was awarded a Purple Heart after the first explosion for pulling the driver out of the burning Humvee and applying tourniquets to the severely injured man before being treated for his own shrapnel wounds.
On his first day back in the field after his injuries from the first explosion, Martin’s Humvee hit an IED again. This time Martin’s injuries were more serious, and he temporarily lost his ability to read and walk.
After returning home in 2007, Martin continued to deal with the long-lasting effects of his TBI and suffered from frequent seizures. But Martin’s life began to take a turn for the better when he discovered Paralympic sport in 2010 and competed in the inaugural Warrior Games presented by Deloitte, where he won the title of Ultimate Champion, the highest individual honor.
“I don’t take near the amount of meds that I used to, since I started cycling,” Martin said. “It’s helped a lot with depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. It helps keep my mind off of things, and there is just more joy to life now. Instead of being depressed about being wounded and having to leave the Marine Corps, I have goals now and ambitions in life.”
Getting to know Scott Martin
For Martin, chasing his Paralympic dream is a full-time job. A typical day involves waking up early for breakfast and heading out for a three hour ride on the roads. He’ll spend the afternoon working around the house and taking care of his three dogs before going out again for a recovery ride.
While Martin has found success on both the road and the track, he’s not sure where his future may lie.
“I like the road a lot, and the individual time trial is my strong point, but I think since I’m good at the time trials, it carries over well to track cycling and the 4k pursuit. Over the next few years, depending how it goes, it may change. If the track starts to become my strength, then that is what I’m going to enjoy more.”
After winning his first national title on the roads earlier this year, Martin will turn his attention to the track next. Martin will compete in the U.S. Paralympics Track Cycling National Championships in Carson, Calif., Nov. 22-24. Martin will compete in the individual pursuit, time trial and scratch race.
To those who have never seen track cycling, Martin would describe it as “very fast and very painful.”
“People describe it as NASCAR on a bike, you are just going around in circles as fast as you can,” Martin said. “It’s a lot of fun.”