Competing in the 2018 International Wheelchair & Amputee Sports Youth World Championships

My name is Jason Robinson and I am a 15 year-old Team USA athlete. I never thought that was something I would be able to say as a teenager. My hard work and dedication to wheelchair racing for a good part of my life has led me to fulfilling a dream I have had since first seeing adaptive athletes compete. Little did I know that the countless hours of practice would lead me to Ireland!

Jason Robinson riding his racing wheelchair

My Journey to Ireland

This past month I had the honor of representing Team USA in the 2018 International Wheelchair & Amputee Sports (IWAS) Youth World Championships in Athlone, Ireland. I had always wanted to represent America in wheelchair racing, but I never knew what it would really feel like or how I would actually get there until this year. In January I was shocked when I received a phone call from the head coach of my team in New Jersey (who also happened to be the head coach of Team USA), saying that I was one of the 29 athletes selected to compete in Ireland later in 2018. I was beyond excited and honored to have been chosen. I trained harder than ever before in the months leading up to my departure for Ireland.

I wasn't quite sure what to expect when I left for Ireland. I was embarking on a new journey and I didn't know many people on the team. Once I got to the airport where all the athletes were flying out of, I was extremely nervous and excited to meet all of my teammates. Once I introduced myself to everyone, it hit me that this was actually happening and that I really was part of Team USA!

I knew that this would be a long flight to Ireland, but I was ready and willing to put my best effort forward. About seven hours later we landed in Ireland where my excitement grew. We went to the hotel and I got to meet some new athletes from other countries. That night we had our first team dinner and I got to meet more adaptive athletes in earnest, learning about their stories and what brought them to Ireland to compete. Many of them had stories similar to mine. A lot of us saw the sport from a young age and wanted to give it a try. I found it most interesting that even though I had never met any of these people before, I already felt like we had known each other for years.

Practice Makes Perfect

The next two days were very similar. We would get up around 6:00am and then head to breakfast. After eating, we would load the buses and head to morning practice. The practices were at the same beautiful facilities we were to compete in over the next few days. The facilities were amazing and the people in charge really knew what they were doing. This made our jobs as athletes a lot easier. After practice we would head back to the hotel where we would spend the rest of our days relaxing and enjoying our time with the team. Each night there was a team meeting where the coaches would talk to us about our upcoming days and what to expect.

Time to Compete

After two practice days, it was finally time to compete. The morning of my first race I was extremely excited. I remember waking up throughout the night just to make sure I didn't miss my alarm. When we arrived at the competition, I was as nervous as I could be. My first race was the 100 meter. Even though the 100 is one of my least favorite events, I wanted to push my hardest in all of my events so that I could get the best times. I remember that we were on the starting line for a very short time, but it felt like we were there for forever! My nerves were racing when I heard the official say, "Racers, on your marks, set," he finally pulled the trigger and we were off! I had two competitors up with me in the front and I ended up taking third in the event with a new personal best of 16.75 seconds! I was so proud of my very first Team USA race.

Jason Robinson competing in a race

Later that day I had my 800-meter race as well. Now that I knew what to expect, I wasn't as nervous, and I was ready to race one of my favorite events. On the starting line I was lined up with some of the same people that I had raced earlier in the day. With the sound of the starting gun, we were off! For the first lap I sat in second place the whole time and when the bell rung for the final lap I made my move. In the end I took second overall but ended up taking the bronze medal because of the points system. When I went back to the hotel that night I reflected on the day I had just had. I looked at my two bronze medals and realized that this was all real and that I was able to medal in my events! I said a quick prayer and thanked God for this opportunity and the talents He gave me and headed off to bed. I wanted to be well rested for the next day of competition.

On the second day of competition I competed in the 200 meter and the 1500 meter. The 200 was in the morning and I was very excited. When we got to the track we warmed up and then I was one of the first races. We formed up on the starting line and before we knew it, we were off again. Mid-race I had a complication with my racing chair, but I was still able to take second place and get close to a new personal best time. I ended up taking my third bronze medal of the games due the points system and I was ecstatic for the 1500-meter race I had later in the afternoon.

Jason Robinson with his coach and a teammate

I warmed up with some of my teammates and then went to the call booth. My teammate Miguel and I have a saying that when you want to take something seriously, it's a "visor-down moment." Since my helmet has a visor, I put it down and was in my zone. Going into the first race, I took off fast and then 300 meters in, the timing system malfunctioned. One of my competitors and I had broken free from the pack and we had a really fast first lap. We were disappointed that we had to start the race over again but lined up anyway. I ended up racing extremely well and I took three seconds off my personal best and took second place with a silver medal in the 1500. Again, I was so proud of my time!

On my final day of competition, I had my last race: the 400 meter. It felt great to race in my last event, but in all honesty, I really didn't want it to end. I wanted to medal in all my races and I wanted a new personal record. I ended up getting second overall and the bronze medal with the points system. At the end of the day I was extremely pleased with my performances, and I was looking forward to the banquet later that night. My teammates and I had a great time that evening and the week was successful. The next morning, we had to get up early to depart the hotel at 3:00am in order to catch the earliest flight back home.

Hometown Hero

When I arrived back in the States, I was in for a huge surprise. One of my teammates on the Sitrin Stars Wheelchair Basketball team picked me up in a limo! I figured the limo ride was bringing me home, but it was a really nice surprise to see a bunch of firetrucks to escort us as we neared our destination. I was already excited to be in a limo and I didn't expect this at all. When we exited the highway near my house, I saw even more escorts and a giant American flag over the top. I still thought I was going home but we turned left off the exit instead of making a right to go to my house. We ended up going to my high school where I was welcomed by the local TV news crew, friends, family, and supporters. I was so touched by this outpouring of love, and I realized that this was one of the best things that has ever happened in my life. I had completed one of my dreams of competing for Team USA and now I received a "hometown hero" welcome back.

Jason with his team

Thankful for All I Have

The week I was at IWAS in Ireland was one of the best weeks of my entire life and I will remember it forever. My advice to readers who may also want to work toward a similar dream is to set a goal for yourself. Once you set that goal, like becoming a Team USA athlete, you will be able to work your way there through hard work and dedication. You too can fulfill your dreams!

As I sit here finishing this blog and reflecting on my experiences, I can proudly look up at my silver and four bronze medals and know that I have fulfilled a life dream. I may not have brought home the gold, but I couldn't be more proud of my progress. I would not have been able to do this without the support from my family, friends, teammates, and most importantly, God. Every day I wake up and thank God for the talents and the perseverance that He has given me and for the opportunity to live such a wonderful life.

About the Author

Jason Robinson

Jason is 15 years old, in 10th grade, and was born with Spinal Segmented Dysgenesis. He has not let anything stop him from pursuing his lifelong dream of being a Team USA athlete. Jason is your typical teenage boy and enjoys school, hanging out with his friends, and playing sports. With the support of his parents and family, he has worked hard to become the strong athlete he is today. After coming to the realization that adaptive sports equipment is quite expensive and not covered by most insurance companies, the Robinson family created a not-for-profit organization called the J-Rob Foundation. Through a grant program they are able to provide adaptive sports equipment for other athletes with disabilities in the local community. Jason serves as Vice President of the Foundation and he hopes to change the lives of many more people throughout the years as he also aspires to be a neurosurgeon someday.

Most of the stories here on Live Quickie were submitted by readers. Do you have a story to tell? We'd love to hear it. Submit your story here.

Date: 8/21/2018 12:00:00 AM

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