Paralympic sprinter Jarryd Wallace addresses the media at the USOC Olympic Media Summit at The Beverly Hilton Hotel on March 8, 2016 in Beverly Hills, California.
Each Tuesday leading up to the Olympic and Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020, which will be held in the summer of 2021, TeamUSA.org will introduce you to an athlete you should know prior to Tokyo – as part of the “Tokyo Tuesday” series. There’s a lot to learn on your quest to becoming the ultimate fan. Follow along on social media with the hashtag #TokyoTuesday.
Jarryd Wallace claims he learned how to run before walking.
While the need for speed helps him reach podiums and bring home medals, the postponement of the Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020 to 2021 has taught him to slow down.
“For me personally, it caused me to take a little bit of a step back and be like, ‘Wow, I was more stressed than I thought I was, I had a little bit more pressure than I was putting on myself,” he said.
Wallace, 30, has competed in two Paralympic Games thus far. He is steadily rising on the world stage — from a sixth-place finish at London 2012, to fifth in Rio 2016 and, most recently, a gold medal performance at the 2017 world championships.
Wallace was speaking as part of Team Toyota’s celebration of the one year out milestone for the Paralympic Games. Even though it’s another year’s wait, one year out is always exciting for any Paralympian, even if it’s meant altering some plans.
Wallace typically develops four-year plans in preparation for Games, and he will review the plans a year after their completion. For Tokyo, he added another year to his plan and to establish his goals for the next year.
Albeit a modification to his plan, the novel coronavirus did not affect his training plans too much. Earlier this year, the Athens, Georgia, native finished a building a gym in the basement of his home, and he has used it since local gyms closed.
While weightlifting can add “power” to his performance, Wallace is trying to strike a balance between over-working himself and working too little.
“How am I supposed to train so I don’t sit at that 95 percent for too long?” the sprinter said. “I also don’t want to sit at that 60 percent for too long. So you kind of have to have peaks and valleys.”
The Paralympian will imagine race-like scenarios to give himself specific targets and goals. He is also OK with taking time for rest.
“I can choose to wake up in the morning and put more pressure on myself, or I can choose to learn from where I’ve been and decide to move forward,” he said. “Not having that extra pressure can literally be the difference between being on the podium and being in the back of the pack.”
He adds: “I think the differentiator between good Olympians or Paralympians and the greats are the ones who are able to adapt.”
Wallace was introduced to Para athletics after below-the-knee amputation of his leg. He was in his junior year at the University of Georgia in 2010, and he felt pain in his right shin. It was the result of compartment syndrome, which is when pressure increases in muscle compartments.
Complications from surgery resulted in amputation, and the high school track athlete who earned himself a sports scholarship with the Georgia Bulldogs turned to drugs and alcohol as “part of hiding the pain,” he told the Atlanta Track Club.
Around 12 weeks after the amputation, he bought a running blade. The lifelong athlete found Para track and field through the internet.
Fast forward three months and he won gold at the 2011 Parapan American Games in Guadalajara, Mexico, and the rest is history.
Wallace has not seen his track teammates in a while, and most are scattered across the country. But he stays in touch with them through social media.
Social media, he says, can be a great source of entertainment. He has even taken over Instagram accounts and done Instagram Live videos with teammates.
He's also enjoying the newfound time he has to spend with his family.
“Right now, we’re just enjoying absolutely every moment that we have together, and being a dad has become the greatest joy of my life,” Wallace said. “Just having a little dude with his (eyes) watching you makes you that much more motivated.”
Wallace is grateful for all he has gleamed from the pandemic, and he said he thinks the pandemic will make the Paralympics even more symbolic of togetherness.
“Because of COVID, the pandemic, the delay, I think that (Tokyo) is going to be event that brings it all back to life, unifies everybody, and kind of gives everybody that, ‘OK, we’re good,’” he said. “I’m really excited for the impact the Paralympics is going to have, and the stage, I believe, is going to be bigger than what it was planning on being.”