The article below originally appeared on MercuryNews.com and is being reprinted with permission.
SAN MATEO — College of San Mateo will host the U.S. Paralympics track and field championships in June, the U.S. Olympic Committee announced Tuesday, bringing the competition to California for the first time.
The three-day event will draw roughly 150 athletes to the community college’s world-class track, which sits on a hill overlooking the Peninsula and San Francisco Bay.
“We have here a million dollar view and a multimillion-dollar facility,” said Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Hillsborough, who attended a news conference Tuesday at the college with U.S. Paralympics and other officials, as well as two local athletes who have qualified to compete in the June 20-22 event.
Steven Toyoji, 28, won three medals for the U.S. team at last year’s world championships in Lyon, France. Toyoji is partially paralyzed below the shoulders, having been diagnosed with an autoimmune disease known as transverse myelitis when he was 8 months old. He races 400, 800 and 1,500 meters in a specialized wheelchair.
“I think we’re going to impress a lot of people out here,” said Toyoji, who lives in San Francisco. “It’s going to be fun.”
College of San Mateo was chosen in part because of its track. The surface, manufactured by Mondo, an Italian company, meets the highest international standards for performance. The track is firm, an important factor for athletes using wheelchairs.
“Having a track that is as firm as possible is ideal,” Toyoji said, “because we are rolling on tires, so anything that has a little bit of give to it, we kind of sink into the track.”
Other top athletes who are expected to compete in June include wheelchair athletes Tatyana McFadden, of Maryland, and Raymond Martin, of New Jersey. McFadden has won 10 Paralympic medals in track and field, and on Monday placed first in the women’s wheelchair event of the Boston Marathon. Martin last year became the first man to win five individual world titles — in the 100, 200, 400, 800 and 1,500 meters.
Americans won 52 medals at the 2013 world championships. They are preparing for the 2015 championships in Doha, Qatar, and the 2016 Paralympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
In addition to established stars there will be young challengers like Ranjit Steiner, 23, who developed bone cancer just above his left knee as a sophomore at Gunn High School in Palo Alto. The tumor appeared after he tore his anterior cruciate ligament while returning a kickoff in a varsity football game.
After suffering through numerous complications while doctors attempted to save his lower leg, Steiner decided in 2010 to have it amputated. He now races using a prothesis.
“Not being able to run and not being active was not the life I wanted to live,” said Steiner. “I knew about the Paralympics and I knew I could compete again.”
Contact Aaron Kinney at 650-348-4357. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/kinneytimes.