Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Morehouse Senior Jerome Singleton Heads to Beijing as Part of the U.S. Paralympic Team

Jerome Singleton’s Olympic dreams have become reality as the Morehouse senior will be heading to Beijing, China, September 7 through 18, as part of the United States team in the 2008 Paralympic Games.

The Paralympic Games are Olympic competitions for athletes with physical disabilities, held every four years, coinciding with the Olympic Games and held in the same venue.

“It’s very exciting,” he said. “I’m very thankful that I’m getting an opportunity to go.”

Singleton, a triple major in math, physics and industrial engineering from Irmo, S.C., qualified for the team during the U.S. Paralympic Trials – Track and Field, in Mesa, Ariz., in June. Singleton, who wears a prosthetic lower right leg, competes in the T-44 division of the 100- and 200-meter dash, along with the 4x100-meter relay. The T-44 division is for single-leg, below the knee amputees.

“I was born without my fibula, so they had to amputate my foot (while an infant),” Singleton said. “But I’ve been playing sports since I was five.”

After getting to Morehouse, he was researching trends in biomedical engineering when he ran across a story about a Paralympian. He then went to www.paralympic.org.

“I looked at some of the times and said, ‘I believe I can compete with these times,’” said Singleton, who was an accomplished high school athlete.

He joined the Flying Maroon Tigers track team in 2006. A roving coach who sometimes works with the track team took Singleton to a Paralympics in 2006. A year later – and after working with Morehouse track coach Willie Hill -- Singleton began to enter and win Paralympic meets.

“This kid showed a lot of people about working and working hard,” Hill said. “I had no doubt this young man was going to do great things in life, on and off the track.”

A total of 206 athletes will make up the entire United States contingent heading to the Beijing Paralympics. Singleton is one of 44 members of the U.S. track and field squad.

The Paralympic Games won’t be Singleton’s first international competition. He won a gold medal in the T-44 100-meter dash and a silver medal in the T-44 200-meter dash during the 2008 Paralympic World Cup in Manchester, England, in May. He won silver in the 200-meter dash and a bronze in the 100-meter dash during the 2007 Para Pan American Games in Rio De Janiero.

“Hands down, he’s the most improved athlete on our elite squad,” U.S. Paralympic Track and Field Head Coach Troy Engle said in an article on Singleton on www.usparalympics.com. “He’s gone from an emerging athlete to a contending athlete to be on the podium in Beijing.”

Before heading to Beijing in September (and eventually to the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor where, this fall, he will begin completing the final two years of his dual-degree engineering program), Singleton will compete in two meets and then focus on training for the Games.

“I’m just going to train hard this summer,” he said. “But I’m ready to go.”

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