It’s always a temptation to rely on the “wheels-as-feet” parallel when discussing a wheelchair athlete. It’s direct. It expresses equivalence where some may see a lack. Most of us understand what it means to have feet. In short: it’s fairly fool-proof.
Wings, on the other hand? Not so much. Still, it’s the metaphor with which tends to drive the narrative of Josh’s story. The milestones have often been marked by flight.
At 4 years old, Josh was momentarily airborne. Life changed forever as he went from walking to rolling in the few seconds it takes for a body to fall from a twelfth story window and land on the concrete below.
That Josh survived at all was deemed a miracle by his doctors. That he still had use of his arms and upper body, with no damage to his brain or other vital organs, was a gift on top of that – one that Josh’s parents did not take for granted. Their determination that he would have as full and active and normal a life as possible ensured that Josh did not take it for granted, either.
Josh learned to navigate the world by wheelchair and was soon exploring everything available in the realm of adapted athletics participating in basketball, track, field, archery, table tennis and swimming with a wheelchair sports organization for children in Baltimore, Maryland. Basketball and racing quickly became his stand-out sports.
Flying soon became a regular and important part of Josh’s existence. Competitive basketball led him to Brazil and Australia before he graduated from high school. At the University of Illinois, he began training with his now long-time coach Adam Bleakney, placed first in three Chicago Marathons and eventually took another flight. This time to Athens for the 2004 Paralympic games where he received two bronze medals and lost any remaining doubt that racing was his calling.
Four years later, in Beijing, Josh brought home silver and gold and set a Paralympics record for the Men’s 100m. He followed up this performance with a bronze medal in the 800m at his third Paralympic Games in London.
Josh’s story is still far from over and he is still soaring. After getting his degree in News Editorial Journalism in 2007, he turned his attention to training, traveling, and competing full time. Along the way he has blogged for the New York Times, helped launch IntelliWheels, Inc., advocated for amazing causes and met incredible people all over the world.