The article below originally appeared on MercuryNews.com and is being reprinted with permission.
Paralympian Jerome Singleton hails from Irmo, S.C., a small town northwest of Columbia. Singleton had never heard of San Mateo, which is hosting this weekend’s U.S. Paralympics Track and Field National Championships at the College of San Mateo. Competition starts today at 8 a.m.
“When I heard the nationals were in San Mateo, I asked ‘San Mateo?’ ” Singleton mused. “‘Is that in the states?'”
Singleton, whose right leg was amputated below the knee, is one of dozens of paralympians that will vie for medals at CSM. Singleton, in the T44 category (single-leg amputation below the knee), will run the 100 meters, but may decide to compete in other events.
“I’m taking it race by race,” Singleton said.
Tatyana McFadden, originally from Clarksville, Md., is a 10-time Paralympic Games medalist in track and field. At the Sochi Paralympic Winter Games earlier this year, McFadden won silver in cross country skiing. McFadden was born with spina bifida that left her paralyzed below the waist. McFadden walked on her hands at her orphanage in St. Petersburg, Russia, where she was adopted.
Bound to a wheelchair, McFadden will compete in five events in the T54 category — the 100, 400, 800, 1,500 and 5,000 meters. McFadden is a 10-time major marathon winner, owning the grand clam of Boston, London, Chicago and New York in 2013.
“I haven’t been on a track since last year,” said McFadden, who resides in Champaign, Ill. “It’s important to get the season started. It will be a good benchmark for things I need to work on.”
McFadden came to San Mateo last Saturday to watch a Masters meet. She spent the past few days training in the Sierra mountains, the altitude around 5,500 feet.
“This is a gorgeous facility,” McFadden said. “It’s beautiful. We’re blessed to have the meet here.”
“I was told this is a similar track that we will be seeing at the world championships and the Rio Games,” Singleton said. “The most important thing is the weather. It’s dream-like weather. In South Carolina, we’re sweating by the time we get to the car.”
Singleton, a member of the men’s 400-meter relay team, was born with a birth defect in his right leg.
“Paralympics changed my life,” Singleton said. “I used to never wear shorts until I joined the paralympics because I was ashamed of my disability. After I made the team, I took the sweatpants off. Paralympics is a mix between track and NASCAR. I finally got my leg, which is similar to the car. My body has been working well, too. If I got this far from working this hard, if I take it to the next level, I’m going to go over the moon and reach the stars.”
There are two sessions today (8 a.m. to noon; 3 p.m. to 6 p.m.) and Saturday (10 a.m. to noon; 3 p.m. to 6 p.m.), one session on Sunday (9 a.m. to noon).