Four-time Paralympic and six-time world champion wheelchair racer Raymond Martin recently revealed how he can relate to the famous London 2012 “not impressed” expression of Olympic gymnast McKayla Maroney.
Nobody can forget Maroney’s lips-pursed-to-the-side look of disappointment on the podium after finishing as runner-up in the vault final of the London 2012 Olympic Games.
Martin met the gymnast at the 2013 ESPY Awards in Los Angeles, calling her very “down to earth,” and explaining how he can empathize almost on key with how she felt when having to settle for silver.
Martin, who has become accustomed to dominating the Paralympic T52 wheelchair racing class, insisted he’s the same way when he doesn’t win gold.
It’s not that the two are sore losers, Martin explained, but rather that they’re frustrated with themselves when they don’t reach the highest spot on the podium. And that’s a good thing, he insisted, as it showcases their dogged passion for their respective sports.
“I’m in the same boat as her,” Martin said. “Sometimes I don’t think straight (after losing), but it’s all in good spirits.”
Martin’s most recent loss — if that’s what you want to call it — came when he finished second to Spain’s Santiago Sanz in the T51/52 division of the 2014 London Marathon.
“I was kind of in the same boat when I came in second in the London Marathon last year,” Martin said. “I was not happy about my finish. I was so focused on just wanting to leave after that I missed the awards ceremony for the top-three finishers in each division. In my head, I thought they just wanted the top finishers … just in my frustrated state things got miscommunicated.”
Luckily for Martin — who said he competes in marathons simply for the fun of it — he is a signature sprinter who rarely loses on the track.
In fact, the 23-year-old racer, who is hoping to defend his 100- and 1,500-meter T52 world titles this week at the IPC Athletics World Championships in Doha, Qatar, has not lost on the track in a major international meet since the last Paralympic Games.
After quietly winning two golds at the 2011 Parapan American Games, Martin solidified himself as the force of the T52 class at the London 2012 Paralympic Games, dashing to gold in all four events he entered: the 100-, 200-, 400- and 800-meter.
After the Games, in addition to an ESPY nomination, the Jersey City, New Jersey, native was named the United States Olympic Committee’s 2011-12 Paralympic SportsMan of the Year.
He received the same honor from the USOC the following season, thanks to his historic performance at the 2013 world championships in Lyon, France. At those championships, Martin became the first male Paralympic athlete to win five golds at a single IPC event, racing to titles over 100, 200, 400, 800 and 1,500 meters.
This year, Martin already won April’s first-ever IPC Athletics Marathon World Championships T51/52 title in London, and then notched another three wins (100-, 400-, 1,500-meter) in August’s Parapan American Games in Toronto.
“I do have a little bit of a streak going,” Martin slowly revealed with a chuckle, as if he were jinxing himself before heading to Doha.
“It’s a different kind of pressure going into these world championships. Going into London and Lyon, I was this young kid who didn’t really know much about the elite circuit. Now, in 2015, coming up on Doha, I’m the guy to watch. Now, instead of just running my race, I’m a part of everybody else’s race because they’re targeting me."
Those targeting him in Doha will include Sanz of Spain in the 1,500-meter on Oct. 26 and Salvador Hernandez Mondragón of Mexico in the 100-meter on Oct. 27.
Sanz, a three-time Paralympian, was the runner-up to Martin at the marathon world championships this year.
Hernandez, who won four 100-meter world titles from 1998-2011, finished second to Martin at the last world championships in 2013.
“I always spend those 90 meters after the start trying to catch him, and one day I won’t be able to,” Martin said of Hernandez.
Martin is the world-record holder in both distances and is expected to be in top form in Doha, having been training with the University of Illinois’ established wheelchair racing program.
He’s on track to graduate from Illinois in 2016 with a degree in statistics, and afterwards he plans to enroll in medical school to become a practicing physician, following in the footsteps of legendary wheelchair racer turned medical professional, Cheri Blauwet.
Studying and training have proven to be a strenuous balancing act lately, though.
“Those are two different beasts,” Martin said. “Doing calculus and pre-med is really taxing on the mind, while training for marathons and world championships is taxing on my body … it’s really taking a toll.”
Martin adheres to a very strict schedule, waking up at 7 a.m. each morning for a non-negotiable 8:15 a.m. practice on the university’s track. If he misses his allotted training time, he has to workout on the road on his own.
He then heads to classes before pausing for a lunch break and then heading to a second training session in the afternoon. He arrives home around 6 p.m., which gives him enough time to grab dinner and hit the books for a few hours before going to bed by 10 or 11 p.m.
Martin has to work hard just to find small increments of time in his schedule to hang out with friends, as he typically devotes most of his spare hours to rest and recovery.
“While I should theoretically be studying or training all the time, there has to be breaks,” Martin said. “You’ve got to allow recovery time for both your body and your mind.
“Sleep is a very big part of my training. It’s not just about what happens on the track, it’s also about how you spend your time off the track. I try to get about eight hours every night.”
This week, Martin’s hoping to adjust to the eight-hour time difference in Doha quickly so he can get his eight hours of sleep and, more importantly, keep his winning streak alive.
Because he wants to leave Doha impressed.
Stuart Lieberman covered Paralympic sports for three years at the International Paralympic Committee, including at the London 2012 and Sochi 2014 Games. He is a freelance contributor to TeamUSA.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.