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Paralympic Postponement Right On Time For Ray Martin

By Tom Carothers | Oct. 22, 2020, 11:03 a.m. (ET)

Ray Martin wins the Men's 400 meter T52 final at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games on Sept. 13, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Ray Martin had made quite a name for himself through two Paralympic Games. 

Competing in track and field in the T52 classification — defined as “good shoulder and upper body control, but lack fine motor skills in their arms and hands with no to limited trunk and leg function” — Martin had raced his wheelchair to the tune of six gold medals and one silver medal over the Paralympic Games London 2012 and Rio 2016.

However, last winter, as Martin trained and prepared for what could very well be his final Paralympic appearance in Tokyo, his left wrist began to bother him.

All athletes deal with their share of pains and strains. Initially, Martin chalked up the pain he was feeling to just something else to work through. However, as time went on, it wasn’t getting any better — much the opposite, in fact. 

“I just kind of ignored it at first and kept training through it, which I don’t recommend,” Martin said. “But there was a point I reached where I knew I needed to get it looked at by a physician.”

With the pain becoming too much to bear, Martin sought medical attention to find the source. The answer was a stunner. Years of intense training had taken a heavy toll on Martin’s wrist, damaging it over time and putting his hopes of a third Paralympic Games in serious jeopardy.

“The diagnosis was that one of the bones in my wrist was broken and it was going to take quite a while to heal,” he said. “That was in February, before the Games were delayed. At that time, there were a lot of questions about whether or not I was going to be able to recover in time for the Games and what the treatment options were — a lot of questions that went unanswered.”

However, Martin’s continued Paralympic career was thrown a lifeline after the games were delayed until 2021 due to the worldwide outbreak of COVID-19. As awful as the scenario was, it did answer a lot of questions for Martin.

“Unfortunately for everybody, the Games were pushed back a year, but that was favorable for me,” he said. “In my circumstance, it gave me extra time to jump back into training and try to be fit for the Games next year.”

While a more invasive procedure would allow Martin’s wrist to fully heal, the recovery timeline would not allow Martin the time to rest, rehab and train for the now 2021 Tokyo Games. Instead, Martin and his doctors opted for what he described as a “band-aid” surgery to minimize the pain he was enduring and allow him to pick up training in time to prepare for next summer.

“Hopefully, it will hold up through the Games,” Martin said. “We’ll revisit it after that.”

While it’s far from an ideal scenario, the less definitive procedure has allowed Martin to begin training again. He’s back on the road, squeezing in his training after putting in a full day as a certified medical assistant, learning to trust his wrist as he builds the intensity of his workouts.

“I’m slowly getting back into it,” Martin said. “I was out about seven months, so I lost quite a bit of training there.”

The wrist is far from pain-free, but Martin is able to work through it these days. That’s a far cry from before when the pain brought his workouts to a screeching halt.

“The wrist is still painful. I notice it on the more intense workouts, but it is definitely manageable,” he said. “Before the surgery, the pain stopped me in my tracks, and I couldn’t do anything. Now, my day-to-day activities are pretty much back to normal and the training is better.”

One lasting impact of the wrist injury has cut to the core of Martin’s career. His days of long-distance racing are likely over.

“When I was first injured, before we went to surgery to try to fix the issue, I was told by the sports med doctor that I shouldn’t expect to do marathons anymore,” Martin said. “That was hard to hear, but I’ve done quite a few marathons, so that’s one part of my career that I’d be okay with having to give up on. Hearing that really did give me a sense of how serious it was.”

Unfortunately for everybody, the Games were pushed back by a year, but that was favorable for me. It gave me extra time to jump back into training and try to be fit for the Games next year.

His training now centers around preparing for the shorter distance events, including the 400-meter — where he is the two-time defending Paralympic gold medalist — and the 100-meter. Martin’s inaugural Paralympic medal came in the 100 at the 2012 London Games, and he took the 100 silver medal in 2016 at Rio.

“I wasn’t particularly a fan of the 100 meters at the time, it was my least favorite event,” Martin said of the 100. “But definitely one of my career highlights was winning my first gold medal in 2012. I was happy to have come in with the gold medal (in that event). It set the bar for the rest of those games and really, my whole career.”

As long as Martin’s wrist holds out, he said the plan remains for the 2021 Tokyo Games to be the final Paralympic Games of his career. 

“It’s always a tough question to answer,” said Martin, 26. “Athletes on the Olympic and Paralympic circuits generally think in four-year blocks. I think if you were to ask anybody what they plan to be doing four years from now, it’s not an easy question to answer.

“Paralympic sport is all I’ve known and what I’ve done for my late teens and early 20s, so I think to completely rule out any future games is short-sighted. But the short answer is, right now, 2021 will be my last Paralympic games.”

Tom Carothers

Tom Carothers is a freelance contributor to USParaTrackandField.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.

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Raymond Martin

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