Eric Johnson

I have been an amputee since the age of 5. My left foot was run over by a speeding van while crossing a gravel alley behind my home. From that time, I have never let my injury affect my athletic aspirations. As a child, I continued to be involved in numerous athletic activities such football, basketball, swimming, hockey, baseball, tennis, and Tae Kwon Do, while always aspiring to be the best athlete I could regardless of any physical disabilities. Throughout high school, I was a three sport athlete competing in football, basketball, and tennis. In my experiences competing with and against able bodied athletes, I acquired a mental toughness and drive to compete at the highest levels regardless of circumstance.

When I entered college, I thought my athletic career was over. This changed however, when I was contacted by Cathy Sellers, the Director of High Performance for USA Paralympic Track & Field, in the fall of 2012. Ms. Sellers heard about me due to my previous athletic accomplishments. She felt that because of my athletic diversity, I had the potential to develop into a valuable member of the United States Track & Field team. Although I had never previously participated as a track & field athlete, Ms. Sellers felt that, because of my familiarity throwing a football, I could excel in the javelin throw. This brought me into the Paralympic world and brought back a competitive fire I had missed since high school. As a javelin thrower, I was the 2013 Paralympic US National Champion, and 2014 Paralympic US National Runner-up. Unfortunately, at National Championships in 2014 I tore my Ulnar Collateral Ligament (UCL) in my left arm while throwing the javelin, thus ending my javelin career. Despite this set back, I continued to have the desire to overcome the odds. I refused to stay down. Ultimately I decided to switch events to the long jump and 100 meter dash with the same goal, become a Paralympian.

As I ran and jumped in competitions, I couldn’t help but notice that my prosthetic was a little lacking compared to my competitors. They were sporting running blades, while I had a much simpler design. I began to realize that in order to compete at the highest level, I needed to get equipment that enabled me to do so. As I researched how much one of these blade legs cost, I was discouraged knowing that there was no way I could afford something like that. That is when I remembered hearing about Amputee Blade Runners at the Endeavor Games in 2014. I like many others, was extremely skeptical, and who wouldn’t be? The idea of an organization supplying you with a free leg seemed too good to be true. After speaking with ABR co-founder Ryan Fann about the organization (and slowly easing my skepticism), I began to realize just how special this group was. That it truly is a group of people trying to make a difference in the world.

Luckily, my application to ABR was accepted and I was fitted with a running blade and can experience all that the ABR team has to offer. This past year at Paralympic Trials, I was able to reach the World A Standard, thus allowing me to be selected to Team USA. Unfortunately, peers of mine out performed me and earned the right themselves to be a Paralympian. Although, I wasn’t selected for 2016, 2017 is a new year with a new set of challenges waiting to be beaten. I am extremely thankful to have become a member of the ABR family and look forward to sharing my experiences with other amputees and do my best to “pay it forward.”