UGA athlete sets his sights on Paralympics

5:05 PM, Jul 28, 2012   |    comments
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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. -- Inside an Indianapolis stadium on a sweltering Saturday morning, they are warming up.

These Paralympic athletes are the best in the world. They are the elite.

But outside this stadium, they're more likely to be noticed for what they're missing, rather than how they overcame it.

Jarryd Wallace is a rookie. And last year, this 22 year old from Athens had the fastest 100 meter time in the world, winning gold at the Pan Am Games. That would be an extraordinary story in itself.

To understand the leap Jarryd Wallace made, you must first know he was born with greatness in his blood. His father Jeff played tennis for UGA and has been the winning women's head tennis coach there for 27 years. His mother Sabina ran for UGA and was an All-American. Jarryd inherited all their talent and was a state champion, recruited to his parents' alma mater.

Life was good, but before enrolling into UGA, Jarryd was diagnosed with Compartment Syndrome, a disease that would change his life forever.

"It's a fancy term for saying there's pressure built up in your calves," Jarryd said.

The cure is surgery. But Jarryd's surgery did not go well. He spent weeks in the hospital. He remembers when the doctors told him that he might never walk again, and if he did, it would be with great difficulty. And Jarryd remembers what he said to the doctors.

"I was like, that's okay doc, I don't need to walk again. I just need to run again," he said.

He was able to walk, but not run. And he was in pain. He got mad at God. He lost his way.

"When I got drunk enough the pain went away. When I got high the pain went away," he said. "But the thing about worldly desires is it eventually comes back. It eventually wears off."

Jarryd got back on track, and then made his decision.

"He came to us and said, I'm going to do this, and even then it was tough to hear," father Jeff said.

Jarryd shared with his parents something he knew in his heart: "I think the Lord kind of instilled in me that there was something bigger. I had to give up my leg in faith."

He exchanged his leg for a chance to run again. He even contacted the head of the Paralympics before his amputation to let her know he was going to London.

"And she was like okay, that's awesome. It's a long recovery, it's a hard road," he said with a laugh.

As Jarryd went into surgery, he prayed over his family: "Lord, the strength the peace you've given me in the last four months since I made the decision to have my leg cut off -- would you please take it from me and instill that on my family's heart right now."

Just two years after that surgery, Jarryd won a spot in the 100 meter finals for the U.S. Paralympics in Indianapolis. The Paralympics are held immediately after the Olympics in London.

That night in the finals, Jarryd did not make the top three. But he learned later he mads the U.S. team in the 4x100 relay. He is going to London.

Jarry Wallace is a young man made whole by what he gave up.

"I can't imagine my life now with a leg," he said.

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