From High School Football Standout To Paralympic Track Star, Tanner Wright Has His Sights Set On Tokyo 2020

By Kara Tanner | Aug. 26, 2019, 6:22 p.m. (ET)

Tanner Wright competes at the Parapan American Games in Lima.Tanner Wright competes at the Parapan American Games Lima 2019 on Aug. 25, 2019 in Lima, Peru.

 

Tanner Wright is used to the bright stadium lights, the roar of the crowd and those pre-competition jitters. 

Growing up in Texas, football was a way of life for Wright. He started playing tackle football at only five-years-old. During high school, he became interested in track and field because it was a way for him to become faster and stronger.

Wright was born with an underdeveloped left arm as a result of a condition called arthrogryposis. 

“My high school trainer had a friend talk to him about [Paralympic track and field] after watching me play in a high school football game,” said Wright. “It wasn’t until college that I decided to take it more seriously.”

After graduating from high school, Wright continued his football career at McMurray University, a Division III school in Abilene, Texas. But the Paralympics were still always in the back of his mind.

His junior year, Wright decided to transfer to Hardin-Simmons University to compete in track and field.

“Transferring was really a matter of whether I wanted to continue doing Paralympic track and field,” said Wright. “For my Paralympic career, it was more beneficial for me to transfer to Hardin-Simmons because it offered me more flexibility. I still respect and love my old school, McMurray, and I love my new school, Hardin-Simmons.”

Coming off a long college season, Wright has had no time off and began training immediately for the Parapan American Games Lima 2019. 

“I had the opportunity to be a part of my 4x400-meter team [at Hardin-Simmons] at nationals this year in May. Things like that where I’m already competing at the national level for college helps at events like this and makes getting serious easier.”

Just two days after his 22nd birthday, Wright won silver in the men’s long jump T46 in his Parapan American Games debut and first international medal alongside U.S. teammate and gold medalist Tobi Fawehinmi (Arlington, Texas). 

“I feel like I’m exactly where I need to be,” said Wright. “When I’m here, I’m competing for my country. At this level, you feel like you need to do absolutely whatever you can.”

With the World Para Athletics Championships in Dubai right around the corner, Wright is doing his best to stay focused on the present, but Tokyo 2020 is still on his mind. 

“Tokyo is still the overall goal. Period,” said Wright. “Right now, I really want to take it meet by meet, but I have firm belief that when Tokyo comes I’ll be ready.”