LONDON (Reuters) - Single amputee Jerome Singleton studied physics so he could learn how to master the use of his prosthetic leg, having been born without a fibula.
It was never a hindrance to the 26-year-old, who was at one stage in the top 100 American college football prospects, and is now among the quickest Paralympic sprinters on the planet.
Silver medalist in the 100 meters four years ago, this time round he will do battle against holder Oscar Pistorius, world record pacesetter Jonnie Peacock of Britain, compatriot Blake Leeper and Arnu Fourie. He expects big things.
“This is going to be some of the best amputee sprinting you’ve ever seen. Period,” he told Reuters, overlooking the Houses of Parliament on the banks of the River Thames.
“When you look at the Olympics there was Usain Bolt. But when you come to the Paralympics there are about six individuals within a tenth of a second of each other. It’s going to be an epic final.”
South African Pistorius, dubbed the ‘Blade Runner’ for the two carbon fiber prosthetic blades he uses after being born without a fibula in both legs, said he has lost sight of the 100 event, but Singleton was not convinced.
“I think Oscar said that because it gives him an out. Oh, he’s going to be prepared,” he said with a knowing grin, adding the race could be anyone’s on the day.
“If you slip up, take a wrong step, it’s going to be bad. You’ve got to be up on that particular day, at that particular time.”
Singleton turned down athletics scholarships from various colleges to focus on his studies having been offered a full academic scholarship, during which time he learnt more about his condition.
His right leg was amputated below the knee when he was aged 18 months, but there was no stopping the American.
”I took mathematics and applied physics so I could learn more about myself. So I read about walking and running limbs.
“Now I can go out and change someone’s perceptions on life in 10-11 seconds,” he said.
Singleton said his boyhood memories are of being treated like the “rest of the children”, but he had a mountain to climb and was not even made aware of the Paralympic movement until 2006.
Consumer goods company Procter & Gamble have ploughed 50,000 dollars into Paralympic sports clubs to help people with physical disabilities from childhood.
“If I could have found out at a very early age it probably would have changed my perception on myself,” Singleton said at a P&G sponsored event.
“I was very self-conscious. I would always wear long pants when I was younger because I didn’t want people to know I was an amputee.”
Singleton’s next hurdle to conquer was his surprise at how talented disabled athletes were when he first came up against them.
“I went to the US Paralympics and contacted everybody. In 2006 I trialed for the team. I got cut, even though I had been competing against able-bodied athletes. That showed me the level of competition.”
Pistorius became the first Paralympian to compete in the Olympics earlier this month, and said on Tuesday he felt the door had always been open to disabled athletes.
Singleton would love a shot in the Olympics, but also knows it would be an almost impossible task, given the strength and breadth of sprinting talent in the United States.
“We have 50 different states, which is almost like 50 different countries. So the chances of me being picked would be very slim. But would I have a desire to go to an Olympic trials? Of course.”
Singleton is scheduled to race in the 100, 200 meters and 4 x 100 relay at the Olympic Stadium.
Editing by Matt Barker