A southeast Missouri man continues to compete at a high level in endurance events, despite losing the use of his legs.
Zach Young, 30, of Jackson, Mo., severed his spinal cord just below his upper abdominal muscles in a 2005 motorcycle accident. It didn't stop his athletic pursuits.
Young won the wheelchair division of the City of Roses Half-Marathon on Sunday, covering the 13.1-mile course in an hour and 13 minutes, the Southeast Missourian reported.
For a time after the injury, Young, who had raced BMX bikes as a teenager, thought his athletic life was over.
"I was so into sports before, and I just kind of got out of it," Young said. "It was a struggle just accepting the life. There's just so many things associated with a new life in a wheelchair. You've got to relearn things."
But four years ago, a Korean War veteran gave him a hand cycle and he began the task of developing his upper body.
"It took me a good two years to develop the muscles needed to hand cycle properly on a competitive level," Young said.
A wheelchair racer uses his or her upper body to propel the chair forward by means of a rubber-coated ring attached to the outside of the wheel. The ring works in tandem with rubberized gloves to provide friction, allowing athletes to maintain a high speed without injuring fingers
Young began participating in triathlons and running events three years ago and has finished 15 triathlons, a full marathon, two half-marathons, three biathlons, several 5-kilometer races and an endurance event in which he cycled 82 miles in 12 hours.
"I couldn't move my arms for, like, a week after that," he said
He hopes to earn a spot in the 2016 Paralympics.
"You know, working out physically, the endorphin rush, the social aspect of being around other athletes, being able to talk to people ... just contribute to overall better health, total health," Young said.