Desmond Jackson competes during the Men's 100m T63 Final race at the IPC World Para Athletics Championships 2019 Dubai on Nov. 15, 2019 in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.
On some of the world’s largest stages, you could often find Desmond Jackson finding a quiet room to cram in some homework after competitions. While his teammates were celebrating or hanging out after world championships, Jackson was often finishing up school work or studying for a test.
That was 2016. Now, almost five years later, Jackson feels like a veteran.
And in a lot of ways, he is. Jackson competed at his first track meet at 10 years old, and from there he never looked back.
“I’ve been an amputee pretty much all my life,” Jackson explained. “As a kid I wanted to still be active, I loved sports. I really did about every sport in the book, I think.”
He played basketball, soccer, baseball and rode horses before he decided that track and field was the one. But for Jackson, the realization was instantaneous.
“The first track meet I went to, I think I competed in seven or eight events and I broke seven or eight different age group records. It was absolutely mind blowing and so unexpected. But from that moment we figured, why not? I knew if I put in the work I could get to that highest level.”
Jackson made sure to mention how welcoming and helpful the other members of the Rio 2016 Paralympic Team were. While he was overwhelmed and trying to take it all in, they made sure he remained focused and ready to compete.
“I think the Opening Ceremony was that moment where it really all hit me where I was. I saw the fireworks go off and could see all the different countries that were being represented, and I just had head-to-toe goosebumps,” Jackson smiled. “It was just a moment where I was so honored to be in that arena.”