Reddit, I’m Hunter Woodhall, Paralympian in Track ＆ Field and 2-time medalist at the 2016 Rio Games for 200m and 400m. I just went pro a few months ago and am training hard for Tokyo. I can’t wait to chat with you Thurs. June 3 at 1 pm ET for the ...
Reddit, I’m Hunter Woodhall, Paralympian in Track ＆ Field and 2-time medalist at the 2016 Rio Games for 200m and 400m. I’m a double amputee, just below my knees as I had a congenital defect called fibular hemimelia – which means my fibulas in my lower legs never formed. Nothing can hold me back – I grew up playing a multitude of sports: soccer, baseball, basketball, wrestling, football, track, snow skiing, knee boarding and wakeboarding. I started running track in high school and by my senior year, I was ranked 20th across America in the 400m run with a time of 47.32 seconds! When I graduated I was one of the first double-amputee track and field athlete to earn a Division I athletic scholarship at University of Arkansas! Before leaving college I was a four time NCAA All-American. I’m also an ambassador for Shriners Hospital for Children. Just recently I decided to go pro – which I’m super excited about and I have my own business Giant Hoodies! I’m looking forward to all your questions so Reddit – Ask Me Anything! And make sure you’re following my journey.
It is sad to see but I fully understand the concerns of locals. For me, the IOC AND IPC have deemed it safe to proceed with the games and I know our NGB is taking all the necessary steps to keep everyone involved safe.
We hear all sorts of stuff about how the Japanese people don't want the games to go ahead.
What do you and your fellow athletes feel about this?
(Genuine question. I used to work at a sport National Governing Body in the UK so I know how important the Olympic cycle is in terms of getting funding.)
I wish I had a better and more factual-based answer. However, for me (I can't speak for other athletes) I am just extremely thankful that the games are happening. As an individual, I don't really have a say in how the games should precede or what needs to happen. Regardless, the United States will be represented at the games and I want to do everything I can to make sure I am a part of the team and can represent my country well.
Are you worried about yourself,your colleagues or other Olympians spreading coronavirus and/or creating and spreading a mutated coronavirus?
The USOPC is doing an amazing job making sure that all athletes, coaches, and staff are in the best position to not spread the virus. I obviously am not in charge of the protocol moving forward to the games but I have full confidence in our governing body to keep everyone involved as safe as possible.
I’m sure you’re a fan of sport as well and I’m wondering if you have a favorite moment of sportsmanship you’ve seen?
It’s always so inspiring to see people who are at the top of their game behaving honorably.
I video that got brought up recently was when a friend of mine Regas Woods was running a 200m and snapped his blade in the middle of the race. He got back up and hopped 150m on one leg to finish the race while the others waited and cheered him home.
I have a disability myself and because of what I went through, I discovered my passion. I work in film and through my work I have met quite some extraordinary people. Most recently I met a rapper who stutters. It's quite a great story, because how he describes it, the reason he now is a wordsmith, is that growing up he had to find synonyms for words when he was stuck. This greatly increased his vocabulary and allowed him to look at language and words in a more creative way. I was wondering how you, since your disability and passion seem to be linked in some way, feel think about how you might have been different if you didn't have hemimelia. Do you think you would have been a track and field athlete? Do you think that the difficulty you might have had in your early life made you more resilient and more focussed on what you could achieve with your life?
Btw, I found you and Tara's youtube a while back while researching a script I want to write about a Paralympian and I think what you guys are doing is great! It's great to get an insight into what it is like to be an amputee without it being all inspirational-y, just frank and real. Thanks!
First of all, thank you so much for sharing. You have such an amazing story and I am so proud of everything you're doing. I 100% believe that the things I experienced when I was younger helped make me who I am today. It instilled a mental strength and a need to keep moving forward that still pushes me today. Thank you so much again!
Should the title read 13th? or is it in the past?
I believe that is a typo, Thanks for pointing out!
What is your favorite thing about running? (not just competing, but why do you love to run! )
I love the control you have. There is no coach that can bench you and no metrics other than time that decide your progress/success. There is something so pure about running and that's what I love about the sport.
If you could, would you change the fact that you have a disability?
Absolutely not, maybe when I was younger I would have a different answer. However, with everything I have been through I know that this is what makes me special. I am able to use what I have been through to impact others in a positive way and that makes it totally worth it.
What are you most excited about with Paralympics in Tokyo?
Competing is what I am most excited about, I haven't competed in a major international competition since the 2017 World Championships due to the pandemic. Having some normalcy again is really exciting and the Paralympics have amazing energy around competing. Also, I have never been to Tokyo so I am extremely excited to see such an amazing place.
Hi Reddit, it's Hunter, thanks for signing on today - I'm here so Ask Me Anything!
Okay, only 5 minutes left and I need to head to the track!
Do you play PC games?
No, unfortunately not, I play some mobile games and have a console. I do like watching some streamers that play on PC though!
What words of advice do you have for parents and their kids who have a disability - their kids may be bullied or think they cannot do what the other kids do...what do you feel is the best way to promote inclusion for these types of situations?
Great question, I went through a lot of bullying in grades 5-6 and it was extremely difficult. I wish there was an easy answer that could solve it, but unfortunately, it's one of the not-so-bright parts of life. However, I think there is ways to manage and help make it easier. For starters Talking about it in an open way can be helpful, trying to hold in the frustration and embarrassment can be extremely difficult. I think it's important when talking about these things to not treat them as a victim, it can be embarrassing to be on the end of bullying and peoples pitty made it worse for me. Be supportive and loving and reinforce the fact that it is temporary and it's going to get better. Lastly, if possible really encourage them to find a group of friends they can be genuine and open with, not trying to be someone they're not and can really feel like a person! I know that;s a lot but i really hope it helps
Thanks so much for joining me today! I loved talking with all of you. Be sure to watch the Olympic and Paralympic Games this summer on NBC!
What is something you wish people would ask you about:
Regarding your sport?
Regarding your disability?
Regarding you as a person?
Great question thank you!
I just don't think there is enough interest in track in general. It is the most competed in high school sport and I feel like we haven't done a great job really growing the sport on the professional level. So I wish we would focus more on how to grow the sport.
For disability, I think that education is extremely powerful. So understanding that it is okay to ask questions is the first step. Finding ways to have that conversation and make everyone feel comfortable about it would help push the inclusion movement forward.
Hi Hunter, what was your favourite international destination that you have visited so far as part of either you impressive sports career or just casual holidaying? Thanks for doing the AMA and good look at Tokyo and in your professional career!
I would have to say Brazil, it was closer to home than most but it was so beautiful and the culture is unmatched. I also really enjoyed Italy!
My best advice is just to start. It can be extremely daunting looking at it in the grand scheme. But boiling it down and just starting then taking little steps to keep getting better is extremely important.
I have battled a lot of mental challenges that have been extremely difficult. Trying to figure out why things aren't going the way you want regardless of your preparation and work is tough.
Right now I am really into Tex Mex and Chinese/Thai food. However, most of my meal prep consists of chicken, rice and vegetables or some combination of that.
What would you do, if you haven't got your disorder? Who would you (want to) become?
Great question, with two amputations below the knee I still live a fairly normal life. Other than a few inconveniences and differences in my day to day my life is not very affected. As far as what I would be doing I have no earthly clue. I would probably be focused on business and my entrepreneurial spirit.
Hunter, what are your plans for Tokyo Paralympics - which races will you compete in? How excited are you to finally know the Games are officially coming and you'll be competing? Do you think you're in a better mindset as you've grown older to compete? You're an amazing athlete and we will all be cheering for you!
Hey, thanks for the question! I will be mainly focused on my premier event which is the 400m. However, this year they took the 200m out for my classification so I will be dropping down to the 100m as well. I am extremely excited to show everyone how wide my range is and get into a shorter race. I am so excited that the games will be happening and I feel like it is somewhat a sign that the world is healing. It has been an extremely difficult last year and I hope this can show the strength and determination people have to keep moving forward! Lastly, I think I am much more confident and mature going into the games in Tokyo.
Have you ever been to Japan before?
I haven't, it is one of my bucket list countries to go to and I am unbelievably excited.
Can you tell us a quote or saying that keeps you going despite challenges you face in life?
two that I live by.
- They told me I would never walk so I learned to run instead. It is just a reminder to always bet on myself and understand my value.
- It's always crazy until you do it. People's doubt in you is always a reflection of the capabilities they believe they have. So understanding what you are capable of regardless of what others say is always motivating
How do your family, especially your siblings deal with your disability?
My family always treated me as if I didn't have a disability. They didn't let me use it as an excuse and it really pushed me to try new things and find new ways to do things that others thought I wouldn't be able to achieve.
When you were younger, did you ever imagine yourself making it to the Olympics? Thanks for doing this!!
Not at all, this is beyond my wildest dreams!
What are your plans/goals for after the olympics ?
Great question, Tara (my girlfriend) is graduating from the University of Texas and also plans to compete in the Tokyo Olympics. After, we are moving in together to Fayetteville. We want to focus on our businesses and go do some much-needed travel and enjoy our off-season.
In all seriousness, how do you feel about going to the event when a large majority of the host country population doesnt want the event at all?
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