Wood County, OH - Now that the 2016 Olympics in Rio have come and gone, the Paralympics are upon us. And one familiar face among the competitors is Otsego-grad A.J. Digby.
Just five years ago, he was fitted for his first pair of running blades. In that short period of time, Digby learned to walk, jog, run and compete in them. And now, he's training for Rio.
"It's been a roller coaster almost," Digby said. "Just the elation of making the team and then getting home and everybody's congratulating you. It's been absolutely amazing. I've been blessed with the opportunity that I've had and blessed with the people I've had around, who supported me the whole way through it."
But for Digby, this was just another goal added to the long list of accomplishments he's already had in his life.
"As an athlete, everything is by goals. Everything is goal-oriented," he said. "So when I was first growing up, my goals were to be able to get prosthetics and be able to do what every day kids do. And once I could do that, then I wanted to play sports like they all do. Then you have the running legs and want to be able to run fast, make national trials, I did that. Then you want to try to run your best and make Team USA. I've done that. So now the goal is to try to run and medal hopefully."
Digby's training has been focused around speed and acceleration drills along with weight lifting.
And he says it's crazy to think about the progress he's made in such a short time with his coach D.J. Michel.
"At the beginning of the year, I would've never guessed it would go this way. It didn't start off very well at all, and right now, we're running at the best we've ever run, and I feel the best I've felt, and we feel like there's still more to come," said Digby. "We feel like we're going to be faster in Rio than we were in trials, and that's the goal right now."
"I think it's his work ethic that really separates him," said Coach D.J. Michel. "He's got a great head on his shoulders. I think that kind of stems from his family. He's got great family support, great community support that kind of helps push him along."
Michel says Digby's work ethic, along with his resiliency during training, will serve him well in Rio.
"I don't think he needs to do anything special; he just needs to keep doing what we've been doing," said Michel. "If he does that, and we run our personal best, then I think our chances are pretty good to be on the stand and medal."
And Digby says he's ready to put those hours and hours of training to the test.
"It's not all about just showing up for race day and trying to do well," said Digby. "It's all the work that you put in before it, and that's something that we've really gotten well this year. So we've been on top of our A-game, and we're set to do well."
Digby makes his Paralympic debut Saturday, Sept. 10 in the 200 semis.