Jarryd Wallace trains during a practice session ahead of the 2021 U.S. Paralympic Trials on June 16, 2021 in Minneapolis.
MINNEAPOLIS — Jarryd Wallace has been a Team USA medal contender at each of the last two Paralympic Games in the sprints, yet he is still in search of his first Paralympic podium appearance.
He finished sixth over 100 meters in London and fifth over 400 meters in Rio.
The affable Wallace, however, made it known at the U.S. Paralympic Team Trials for Track and Field on Friday that this — finally — may be his year.
And he did so in under 11 seconds.
Wallace clocked a 10.99 in the 100-meter T64 sprint — the fastest time in the world this year and one that would have won him a silver medal at both the last Paralympic Games and world championships.
The 31-year-old credited his quick time to racing alongside some of his most beloved teammates.
“I’m right on cue and excited with where I landed today,” he said. “Being able to line up against Jonathan Gore, who is a new up-and-comer, and Hunter Woodhall, who has been a dear friend for a long time, means the world. I got a little teared up after crossing the finish line as it was a very special race for me.”
With the U.S. Paralympic Team Trials being live streamed for the first time ever on Peacock, NBCOlympics.com and the NBC Sports App, Wallace’s wife and 1 1/2-year old son Levi were able to watch from back home in Athens, Georgia.
“It’s the greatest thing,” Wallace said. “It brings a whole other level of joy and purpose to the sport and life in general knowing that my little man was sitting at home yelling at the TV. He always yells, ‘Go, daddy, go!’ Even when track is on TV and I’m sitting right next to him he yells, ‘Go, daddy, go!’”
Wallace now always races for Levi, having previously noted that babies and athletes aren’t so different, both thriving on knowing what’s coming next, taking naps and eating lots of snacks.
Born into an athletic family, Wallace grew up to become a high school state champion runner. However, his life was forever changed when at the University of Georgia pain in his right shin turned out to be compartment syndrome, causing decreased blood flow to the tissues in his leg. After electing to have his leg amputated, he bought a running blade 12 weeks later and made a name for himself in no time, racing to gold at the 2011 Parapan American Games.
While he now has two Paralympic Games appearances under his belt, his most successful event on the international stage was the 2017 World Para Athletics Championships, where he won gold in the 200 and bronze in the 100. He had been a favorite to medal in Rio, but a combination of factors including a respiratory infection held him back from reaching the podium.
“I’m way more mature now than in Rio, both from a life perspective and race perspective,” he said. “Rio threw a few curveballs at me. Mentally I didn’t take care of business, so I have some unfinished business in the 100 and 200 meters to take care of in Tokyo.”
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Wallace has used his time wisely, serving as an advocate for affordable prosthetics as well as mentoring the next generation of amputee sprinters like Gore. who finished right behind him in 11.04 in the T64 class at Trials.
In terms of his own training during the pandemic, he built a gym in the basement of his home so that his Tokyo dreams would not take a backseat.
“It wasn’t easy for anybody,” Wallace said of gyms closing. “We did what we could when we could. We did our best to follow CDC protocols and do what was required from that standpoint, and I was fortunate to have a training room set up in my place to keep me working on my strength.”
Now, Wallace will have one more race at Trials, the 200 on Saturday, to compete in before he flies home to see Levi on Father’s Day.
“I’m super grateful for my wife and all the sacrifices she’s made to allow me to continue to train with having a little one,” he said, eager to get that elusive gold in Tokyo to bring back to his little man in Georgia.