US Paralympic star Jerome Singleton talks success on and off the track

After a few ups and downs, Singleton finally fulfilled his sporting ambitions in Beijing. He won a silver medal in the 100-meter (T44) finals and was a member of the gold-medal-winning 4x100m men’s relay team. Overnight, he became one of the world’s most respected Paralympic sprinters.

“Beijing was an amazing experience,” he says. “It changed my perspective on life.”

Testimony to his academic excellence, after the games, he transferred to University of Michigan to finish his dual degrees and added a bachelor’s degree in industrial engineering to his plate. At the same time he continued competing and winning medals at international sporting events.

Last year, Singleton was back in the headlines when he beat the fastest amputee on the planet, Oscar Pistorius, to earn a gold medal in the World Championships. That defeat ended Pistorius’ seven-year Paralympic winning streak.

With such high expectations, Singleton’s performance at the London 2012 Paralympic Games was a surprise. He was placed 6th in the 100m and came 5th in the 200m. He was also set to run in the 4x100m relay but Team USA was among three teams disqualified.

“This is the first time I didn’t medal.” He attributes his performance to minor health issues, though explains that he uses experiences, good and bad, as a “learning curve and opportunity to grow.”

Singleton believes it is a shame that over the years the Paralympic Games have been viewed as a poor cousin to the Olympics, with less media coverage and athletes typically securing less lucrative sponsorships deals. Regardless of this, he says, the tracks and field events in London were packed with sold-out crowds and coverage was significantly better than in 2008.

In the face of assumptions that viewers are not interested in disabled sports, Singleton predicts the Paralympic Games gaining popularity in the coming years. “The Paralympics gives us a chance to look at athletes pushing to their limits, despite the challenges they have had.”

Now back in the states on a busy schedule, which includes setting up an organization to help U.S. children with prosthetic limbs, Singleton says he is as determined and focused as ever.

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