Irmo Paralympian who once beat Oscar Pistorious will chase gold in Rio

Irmo Paralympian who once beat Oscar Pistorious will chase gold in Rio
Jerome Singleton Jr. (Source: WIS)
Jerome Singleton Jr. (Source: WIS)

IRMO, SC (WIS) - Setbacks never set him back.

From an early age, Jerome Singleton, Jr., learned to never let anything stop him. The 29-year-old Irmo native overcame a genetic birth defect to become a Paralympic gold medalist with big goals again this summer in Rio.

Before the age of two, Jerome Singleton, Jr.'s parents decided to amputate his right leg because he was born with a partial tibia.

"When I grew up I wore long socks and long pants all the time," Singleton said. 

Although at times he hid what made him different, he didn't shy away from sports. At Dutch Fork High School, he played multiple sports, including track and field by wearing an artificial leg.
"My dad told me I had to be two to three times better than my able-bodied competitors if I wanted a chance to play," Singleton said. "So, I always had a desire to be great."
In college, his passion to compete in the sports world nearly flamed out. While attending Morehouse College, he stumbled upon an article online that would change his life. 
"I was looking up artificial limbs," Singleton said. "I wanted to learn more about myself finally. Doing this, I came across an article about Marlon Shirley.  He was a Paralympic champion. I went to and found out that year they were going to have nationals in Atlanta, Georgia.  So in my mind, they knew I was going to take over the world."
It didn't quite happen that way. In 2006, he didn't make the cut for Team USA. 

By 2007, he made the Parapan American Games. In 2008, he won a gold and silver medal in the Paralympics. In 2011, he became a world champion in the 100 meters by defeating the now infamous, Oscar Pistorious. 

"Every day, I went into practice thinking you're the best in the world at what you do," said Singleton of his motivation to win. "So you need to prove it."
He did. He won the gold. However, the champ crashed at the 2012 Paralympic Games in London. Singleton failed to make the podium for the first time in his career. Through failure, he realized his true purpose for competing. 
"I had a chance to speak at different organizations and share my story," said Singleton of his opportunity. "I saw how it impacted people. I was like man this is a whole lot bigger than athletics."
By inspiring others, he inspired himself to regain championship form.

In 2013, he medaled three times in international competition. Now, the 29-year-old Singleton looks to race for the gold in Rio in September at the Paralympic games.

"I got unfinished business this year," said Singleton. "Kept me off the podium in 2012. Can't let them do it again this year."
His father inspired him to reach for greatness.  Now, he hopes his story of triumph on the track does the same for others.  

"It's about the story," said Singleton.  "So if someone else reads it, they know it's possible."
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