Just after David Prince crossed the finish line of his final race at the 2013 International Paralympic Committee Athletics World Championships in Lyon, France, his coach Loren Seagrave handed him the phone through a fence. On the other end was Prince’s wife Jessie, calling from a Sarasota, Fla., hospital.
Prince’s first biological son was on his way while he claimed a bronze medal in the men’s 400 meter T43/44 final, behind Brazilian Alan Oliveira and American Blake Leeper, both double amputees.
“I am always proud to represent my country but man, when he handed me the phone, my heart sank just a little bit,” said Prince, who also won a silver medal in the 200m T44 with a personal best time. “I was disappointed.”
David Prince with wife Jessie and sons Aidan and Asher.
A difference of 2.05 seconds could not compare to the difference of 4,768 miles between Prince and his family.
“When I received my invitation to the world championships, I thought about declining because I knew it was really close to the due date,” Prince said. “But Jessie urged me to go because competing is financially important for my family. I don’t have sponsorships that pay my bills. I pay my bills with my performances.”
Just after Prince won his second medal, Asher James arrived at 2:28 p.m. on July 26. He was born at 35 weeks.
“Everyone says he looks just like me,” said Prince, who just recently adopted Jessie’s older son Aidan. “He doesn’t look like a potato.”
Prince was scheduled to get home Tuesday (July 30) but rebooked his ticket to arrive Sunday night. After an adventure that included getting lost in the Frankfurt airport and missing his connection, Prince walked into his house around 10:30 a.m. Monday.
“They had already released my wife from the hospital by the time I landed, which was disappointing because I wanted to be there for her,” he said. “Just as I was home, they got home. I sat around for a while just holding him.”
Prince has been reluctant to let go since then.
“I’ve been pooped on, I’ve been peed on, but I’m OK with that,” he said. “I just love this little guy even if he won’t let me sleep sometimes.”
But there is no rest for the weary.
Prince competed at the Great North CityGames in Newcastle, England, in September and at the Shoe City Games last week in California. He is eager to erase the memories of what he called a sub-par 2012-13 season.
At the 2013 U.S. Paralympics Track and Field National Championships, Prince won two national titles while setting multiple world records. He was unable to replicate that success in Lyon.
“Overall, I would rate the world championships pretty low,” said Prince, who battled injuries throughout the season. “I had expected to do a whole lot better. Every athlete wants to win and having not won, it’s a little disappointing.”
Prince ran most of the season with an injured leg.
“My entire sound leg had non-stop throbbing,” he said. “It was really overworked because of the height difference with my prosthetic leg.”
In Oct. 2012, following his bronze medal performance in the 400m race at the London 2012 Paralympic Games, Prince had a screw removed from his knee. "We were going to have a new running leg made after that but it wasn’t imperative so I just kept going.”
In January, video analysis revealed that his running leg was too short.
“I didn’t stay on top of the maintenance of my leg so it’s my own fault,” he said. “I was shrinking with each practice but I wasn’t doing anything about it. I just kept running instead of making trips to my prosthetist. At this level, you can’t do that, even when you have the best running leg in the world.”
After making modifications to the leg in the spring, it was a problem again by June as Prince continued to run without trips to see his prosthetist.
“I was extremely negligent last season,” Prince said. “I had a great leg but I just dropped the ball on keeping up with maintenance and I learned my lesson. I’m excited about this new leg.”
But the leg will not be the only difference.
“I’m probably going to try a couple of different feet too,” he said. “I gained about 25 pounds of muscle last season so the responsiveness of my foot changed. I’m going to try out some different feet to see what feels best.”
Prince works with Hanger Prosthetics.
“Hanger has been so supportive since I first started running,” he said. “I’m lucky because they make the best prosthetics in the world.”
Prince thinks the changes will help regain top form, especially in the 400.
“I would like to break the world record in the 400 this season,” he said. “I would like to give some attention to the 100 and the 200 but the 400 is my main event.”
Along with a new running leg and foot, David Prince unveiled a new personal logo for the 2013-14 season.
He also wants to add the 4x100 relay, which Team USA won in a world record time in Lyon, back into his routine.
“I did not like not being a part of that relay," said Prince, who was an alternate for the relay.
He hopes to be a part of it at the 2015 world championships.
“My speed is my focus this season,” he said. “By no means do I consider myself a 100 meter sprinter but the faster I get in the 100, the faster I get in the 400.”
“The next season is going to be really good,” he said.
But it is just one step to the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games.
“The goal is Rio but at the same time, with my age, my main focus is staying healthy until then,” Prince said. “If I can stay healthy, I can do well there. I want to do well there.”
Medal or not, Aidan and Asher will be cheering.