“In my head, I don’t have a disability,” says record-breaking discus world champion
The first Paralympic athlete to throw a discuss beyond 60 meters has never seen his missing leg as a "disability"— not in childhood growing up in an athletic family nor now in his preparation for the 2016 Paralympics.
Texas-born gold-medal winner Jeremy Campbell had his right leg amputated just below the knee when he was around 15 months old because of a rare birth deficiency called Fibular Hemimela.
His two older brothers and his parents were always athletic— his brother is NFL player and Army alumnus Caleb Campbell— and he grew up in Texas where "you don't have much except playing sport and... well, that's it," he says with a chuckle.
Jeremy naturally gravitated towards sports and never saw his missing leg as a hindrance.
"I walked away from my first track meet because they asked me what my disability was," he says. "In my head, I don't have a disability."
Jeremy has the same attitude today when he competes on an international level.
"I consider myself an athlete just like any other," he tells The Factory Agency. "I might have to adapt my approach to training a little here or there, but I have to work just as hard to succeed against parathletes."
And work hard he must, because succeed he does. The discus-thrower won a gold medal at the 2008 Summer Paralympics in Beijing, and that year became the first-ever Paralympic athlete to throw more than 60 meters.
He has won a total of nine gold medals, three of which were Olympic gold medals, and stands as the reigning world champion.
Jeremy was among the athletes in Rio in mid-May training ahead of the games. "We wanted to be here and check it all out before the Paralympic Games, so that we know what to expect," he told Rio2016.com.
But he says representing his country is not the only reason he competes.
"It is an honor to represent my country and wear that USA across my chest when I am competing, but it is always more important to me to represent my God and what He has done for me and blessed me with," he tells Athletes in Action.
"My faith in Christ is the engine behind everything I do."
Jeremy says he knew he wanted to be a competitive athlete, but was not always clear as to how his Christian faith would become such a large part of his career.
Then one day as he attended a large church conference, the speaker told Jeremy he was going to share the good news of Jesus Christ around the world.
Only recently has Jeremy realized that prediction was largely right, as he now finds himself travelling the world and telling people about what Jesus has done in his life and how He helped him get to where he is.
"I don't necessarily go out looking for specific opportunities to share my faith," he says.
"But when God-ordained opportunities present themselves to me, I am more than ready to share how God has blessed me and has a plan for everyone's life that is built off having a relationship with Jesus Christ."
Jeremy credits the Lord for his success and truly believes he has been blessed.
"God gives me the ability and I give Him the glory," he says.
"Our circumstances aren't always the greatest, but we are born into a world where we have destiny. We can overcome."
He quotes 2 Chronicles chapter 20 verse 15 in the Bible: "Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the battle is not yours, but God's."
"I strongly believe whether you were born with a birth deficiency or completely normal, you have a purpose and a story to tell," he adds, making allusion to Jeremiah chapter 29 verse 11 in which God tells us: "For I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."•