Sprinter eyes Rio gold, world record in Paralympics

- Jarryd Wallace always dreamed of a gold accessory for his eventual red, white and blue outfit.

"I remember when i was 6 years old in 1996, watching Michael Johnson run the 400 finals in Atlanta and wanting to be an Olympian," said Wallace.

The 26-year old was a state champion middle-distance runner at Oconee County High School before continuing his career at the University of Georgia. He's fulfilled his Olympic dream already, though not as he'd originally planned.

After a battle with compartment syndrome and several surgeries, Wallace had his right leg amputated below the knee. He calls it one of his hardest but best decisions ever -- the pain he long dealt with was gone, and instead of slowing down, he sped up.

Wallace is now getting ready to compete in his second Paralympic Games. He'll race in the 100-meter sprint in his classification and in the 4x100-meter relay. He's not shy about his goals -- a picture of the gold medal is his cell phone's background photo -- and is aiming high.

"We get a good start on a fast track in the right conditions, I think there'll be a good chance the [100-meter] world record's gonna go," said Wallace.

In addition to learning to run with a prosthetic leg, Wallace also had to transition from the distance racing he grew up with to sprinting. He says it's much more technical, every angle and movement is analyzed.

"Small margin of error in that race," said Wallace. "Ten and a half seconds racing, one little thing goes wrong, that can be the difference from winning to getting third or fourth place."

Wallace trains with Georgia associate head coach Ken Harnden.

"We spend a lot of time going, 'how did that feel? What was different?'" said Harnden. "Because I will never be able to feel what he feels. I've run professionally, so I know what it's like to put two legs in front of another and that's normal, but with him I really have to ask a lot of questions."

After the Trials, Wallace took some time to decompress and recover, including a bachelor party trip with friends to unwind. Now, all his energy is on Rio.

"That's just putting myself in a position to say, 'ok, this is realistic,'" said Wallace. "This is not a far fetched dream. We've put the time in, if it's supposed to happen, it's going to happen. I want to put myself mentally in the best place to be confident that when the gun goes off, I have what it takes to bring home the gold."

Wallace has overcome bigger hurdles than the field of runners that await him at the Paralympics. The prize that will take just over 10 seconds to earn is something he's been working for, in many ways, his whole life.
 

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