ESPN aired an update on Sunday about the lextraordinary lives of Paralympic Bronze Medalist Dartanyon Crockett and his highschool friend Leroy Sutton. Crockett took a few minutes for a Q&A with USA Judo, describing among other things a pivotal moment with his coach, USA Judo’s Eddie Liddie, that came during competition at the Paralympic Games in London.
You watched this Sunday for the first time like most everyone else. You lived all of it, but what is it like to experience it again?
Dartanyon: I’ve watched it about five times now, and the more I watch it, reliving everything that has happened, even though it is a very condensed version, the more it hits me that it’s been an incredible journey.
Did you see anything about these experiences that you hadn’t noticed before?
Dartanyon: Just how amazing and unlikely everything is. With the first story that ran about four years ago, it was told as a story that I had, a story about me, but I didn’t really realize it was there. This was different because I knew the story, but I didn’t know how it would be told.
Eddie Liddie is your coach, and you’ve described him as an important figure now in your life. What is the most important thing Eddie Liddie has taught you?
Dartanyon: It was in London after my first match, I’d won but it was one of the toughest matches I’ve ever fought. After the match I’m tired, I’m drained, old injuries are flaring up, ankles, shoulders, things like that. He takes me aside and he tells me, ‘you can go home with a sympathy medal, people will pat you on the back and tell you that you fought hard, that you did a great job. Or you can go home with some hardware. People will look up to you and be moved by your performance at the Games.’ And since I’ve won I realized that he had no doubt that I would make it to the podium. Let alone teaching me about judo and about how to be a fighter, he kind of laid things out in front of me at the Games, that I could shock the world, and that’s what I did.
The Paralympic judo program has been under USA Judo’s wing for about three years. Where do you see it headed now?
Dartanyon: Coming out here to Colorado and making it to a podium in London, I hope and believe that it can expand and become much bigger than what it is now.
Where is home now?
Dartanyon: I still have roots in Cleveland, family and friends there who love me and support me and I’ll always be a Clevelander, but right now home is Colorado.
Not long after winning your bronze medal at the Paralympic Games you went back to Cleveland. Did you go back to your old neighborhood? What was that like?
Dartanyon: Whenever I go back I stay with my sister. She lives about 20 to 30 minutes away from where I went to school, maybe a little bit more. Basically, I’m in the neighborhood I grew up in. It was the same pretty much, the only thing is that I had a bronze medal, but I didn’t want any special treatment, and I didn’t get any special treatment. It definitely opened doors, I went and spoke to my old high school and the students there. I told them about my experience, how I made the team and the message I was sending was that you are going to struggle before you succeed and its okay to make mistakes. Move on and better yourself in life. Nothing is going to come to you unless you go out and take it. Despite your background and wherever you are from, you can accomplish anything. Every negative thing you think about where you are from is an excuse about why you didn’t try hard enough.
Did you have goals as a kid? What were they?
Dartanyon: Nothing specific, just that I wanted to change, that I wanted something better. Didn’t know what it was. It was very vague, but it was something.
What are your goals now?
Dartanyon: Right now, take gold in Rio, continue to train for Rio, graduate with a degree in social work, inspire and change the lives of people who see my story and get something from it.
If you could go back in time and talk to yourself as a kid, what would you tell him?
Dartanyon: Just keep pushing through. This is just the beginning. Your life has barely started yet.
Not surprisingly the story has gained momentum, traveling around the internet. Have you heard from people you did not expect to?
Dartanyon: Mainly just from people touched by the story, who are not going to give up. They were on the brink of giving up and just happened to hear the story and now they just want to keep pushing on.
What super hero would you be?
Dartanyon: My favorite is Batman. I don’t know if I’d really want to be a super hero though. Because there is no super power greater than the human heart, no super power that can outdo will power, and me being someone else wouldn’t really change that.