By Ben Brewster, Wayzata.com Guest Columnist
Watertown Mayer High School student and wheelchair athlete Josh Scanlon has, at 17 years old, already reached an elite level of competition, competed all over the country and won 18 gold medals.
In July, he will be traveling to Switzerland to compete on an international stage.
A former gymnast, Scanlon shattered his T12 vertebrae while vaulting in his living room August 16, 2004. The accident left him paralyzed from the waist down.
“I spent one week in Intensive Care where I had my T11 and T12 [vertebra] rebuilt and fused together and two steel rods bolted to my spine,” Scanlon said in an e-mail interview.
Along with gymnastics, he also participated in wakeboarding, wrestling, basketball and baseball before his accident.
Scanlon said the sports he used to play carried over into the sports he plays now.
“The transition wasn’t hard because wheelchair sports teams are very similar to able bodied teams,” he said. For the past three years he has competed in the National Junior Disability Championships (NJDC) as well as with Team USA.
Scanlon joined the Courage Center track and field team the first spring after his accident.
“Courage Center is a Minneapolis, Minn.,-based rehabilitation and resource center that advances the lives of children and adults experiencing barriers to health and independence,” according to the organization’s Web site.
At the Courage Country Championships Scanlon qualified for the NJDC in every track and field event. “NJDC was my first chance to interact with kids in similar situations and experience wheelchair sports competitively,” he said.
In his three years competing in the NJDC, he has competed in the 100, 200, 400, 800 and 1,500 meter wheelchair races, discus, javelin and shot put. He quickly racked up medals, winning eight gold and one silver in 2005, one gold and seven silver in 2006 and six gold and one silver in 2008. He added three more gold and one more silver while competing with Team USA last year in New Jersey.
After his performance with Team USA, Scanlon was one of 23 athletes chosen to compete in the world championships, held in Notwill, Switzerland this July 11 to 20. In Switzerland, he will be competing in the 100, 200, 400, 800 and 1,500 meter races, along with the discus and javelin.
A junior at Watertown Mayer High School, Scanlon also mono skis and is a member of the Jr. Rolling Timberwolves varsity wheelchair basketball team.
He does not anticipate stopping after high school, however. “My plans are to play college basketball,” he said. “I love all of those sports and would love to go to the Paralympics.”
To make a donation towards Josh’s trip to Switzerland, visit this link: