Two-time Paralympic 100m champion Marlon Shirley, who battled multiple knee surgeries and a staph infection during the 2008 racing season, headed to Beijing with a great deal of uncertainty. Just two months earlier Shirley, with lingering pain in his knee, was unsure whether he would be able to race at all. Nevertheless, Shirley was determined to be on the track to defend his 100m title. After making it through the preliminary heat, Shirley was prepared to give it his all in the finals. Midway through the race, Shirley suffered a torn Achilles and fell to the ground in agony. Shirley refused to be helped off the track, wanting to finish the race. Displaying the courage and resolve that has made him one of the most successful and recognizable U.S. Paralympians, Shirley crossed the finish line to the cheers of thousands, showing why he is a champion for the ages.

Not his first bout with knee trouble, Shirley managed to rebound from major reconstructive surgery in 2006 time for the IPC Athletics World Championships (Assen, The Netherlands), where he earned gold in the long jump and helped set a world record in the men's 4x100m relay. In his biggest competition of 2007, Shirley took the gold in his signature event, the 100m, at the Parapan American Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Abandoned by his mother at age three, Shirley found a way to survive by living with other kids on the streets of Las Vegas. He eventually found his way into the foster care system, but tragedy struck again at age five when he lost his left foot in a lawn mower accident. Several years later, a high school football injury resulted in the further amputation of the lower section of the same leg. Shirley owns the world record in the 100-meter dash and has earned the designation as the only amputee to break the 11-second barrier in that race. Shirley trains at the Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista, Calif.

Shirley is a member of the USA Track & Field Accommodations Committee. He is also a recipient of the San Diego Hall of Fame Best Disabled Athlete Award, as well as a two-time ESPY Award winner (2003, 2005) in the Best Athlete with a Physical Disability category.

Major Achievements:

  • 2008: U.S. Paralympic Team member, Track & Field - Paralympic Games, Beijing, China
  • 2007: Gold medal, 100m - Parapan American Games, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
  • 2007: World record, T44/F44 100m (10.91) Espoo, Finland
  • 2006: Two gold medals, long jump, 4x100m relay (WR) - IPC Athletics World Championships, Assen, The Netherlands
  • 2005: Four gold medals, 100m, 200m, long jump, 4x100m relay - IPC Open European Championships, Espoo, Finland
  • 2005: ESPY Award recipient, Best Athlete with a Physical Disability
  • 2005: Recipient of the San Diego Hall of Fame Best Disabled Athlete Award
  • 2004: Gold medal, 100m; Silver medal, 200m; Bronze medal, long jump -Paralympic Games, Athens, Greece
  • 2003: First T44 (below-the-knee amputee) to break 11.0 seconds in 100m - 10.97
  • 2003: Gold medal, 200m - IAAF World Championships
  • 2003: ESPY Award recipient, Best Athlete with a Physical Disability
  • 2002: T44/F44 Long Jump world record (6.79m) Villeneuved'Ascq, France
  • 2002: Three gold medals, 100m, long jump, 4x100m relay - IPC Athletics World Championships, Lille, France
  • 2000: Gold medal, 100m; Silver medal, high jump -Paralympic Games, Sydney, Australia
  • 2000: U.S. Paralympic Spirit Award Recipient