Gold Medalist Paralympic Sprinter Nick Mayhugh Inspires Centennial Student-Athletes

Meghan Barone was nervous about the East Atlantic Cross Country Championships. In her sophomore year at Centenary University, Barone knew she had been training, but was still concerned about Saturday’s race.

Barone received advice from Nick Mayhugh, a three-time Tokyo Paralympic Games gold medalist. In a Zoom meeting with Centennial student-athletes on Monday night, he encouraged them to visualize success.

It’s something he does before every race, saying “I’m the best. I’m the best. I’m the best.” on the starting line.

“It resonates something in your subconscious and you will perform better,” said Mayhugh, 25, who set world records in his 100 and 200-meter standings in Tokyo, won gold in the mixed relay of the United States and was second in the 400 meters.

“Do whatever you have to do. Exile everything in your life for the next week, and just surpass what you even think is possible.”

It is also a summary of Mayhugh’s life.

Although born with cerebral palsy, the disease was not diagnosed until Mayhugh suffered a grand mal seizure at the age of 14. It was three days after winning the starting spot on his DC United academy football team scoring two goals in each of the two games against the New York Red Bulls ahead of the NCAA Division I scouts.

The neurologist projected Mayhugh’s MRI scan onto the wall, showing a large ominous dark spot on the right side of his brain. The motor neurons that controlled the left side of his body were dead.

“My whole world has been turned upside down,” he said. “To come home Monday night and tell my mom that I would be able to take care of her and get pro and all that stuff, and Thursday to be told that I would never play football again, I can’t really reproduce the feelings that I felt like I had lost everything. “

Change of direction

Despite the neurologist’s disastrous announcement, Mayhugh played football at Patriot High School in Nokesville, Va., And drove hours “in another state” to train with an academy team. He entered the Division I University football team in Radford, Virginia. However, he broke his collarbone in first grade and partially tore his hamstrings in second grade.

A forward, Mayhugh got his first start and scored the game-winning goal against Winthrop in his junior year Homecoming in a red shirt. But in the next game, he tore off his left MCL as he was tackled by an opposing defender.

The following season, he was called up to the US National Paralympic team at 7 to play in midfield.

Three years later, Mayhugh was named the 2019 Player of the Year with a Disability after scoring 19 goals in 11 games at the IFPCF World Cup and the 2019 Parapan Am Games.

He has 34 goals and 31 assists in just 25 international matches.

American Nick Mayhugh breaks the world record by winning the gold medal in the men's 100m T37 final at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games in Tokyo on Friday, August 27, 2021 (Bob Martin for OIS via AP)

But football was not on the program for the 2020 Paralympic Games, another of Mayhugh’s dreams fell apart. However, USA Track & Field asked him to try a new sport.

Mayhugh had run longer distances to stay fit for football, but had to be converted to a sprinter in the T37 classification, alongside other athletes who have moderate coordination disorders on half of their body.

“I didn’t try to qualify or anything,” Mayhugh said. “I went straight to the top and hit world records: ‘T37, 100, 200, 400.’ I wrote down those times and put them on my wall. I had them on my wall in every room of my November 2019 apartment in Tokyo. “

When Mayhugh told his new coach he wanted to win a gold medal at the Paralympics, the coach laughed. But Mayhugh has achieved this supposedly impossible goal three times – and is already determined to outdo himself in Paris in 2024.

Mayhugh also wants to help the USPNT become the No. 1 in the world. It is currently ranked fourth behind Ukraine, Iran and Brazil.

“I’ve become very focused on what I’m doing now,” said Mayhugh, who received a video from Jamaican superstar sprinter Usain Bolt after his Paralympic victories.

“With football in college, I wanted to start, score and win a few championships. That’s exactly what I did.… The way my mind works is I’m never happy with what I do. . I accomplish one thing and it’s always, “What’s next?” “

Winning advice

American Nick Mayhugh celebrates after winning the men's 100m T37 final at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games on Friday, August 27, 2021, in Tokyo, Japan.  (AP Photo / Eugene Hoshiko)

Mayhugh was zooming in from Mexico and said he is developing a business plan during his vacation for the remainder of 2021. He spends a lot of time watching Netflix, catching up on “The Blacklist” and girl’s movies. Mayhugh also loves Chick-fil-A and “will open a pack of Oreos at the start line, drop them off and do a race. It doesn’t matter. I’ll look into a camera and tell people all over the world that the Oreos are the reason. which I won gold for. I don’t care. “

Describing himself as “one of the laziest people I know,” Mayhugh admitted he hated waking up early. He was primarily a philosopher, telling students to “remember why you started in the first place, why you fell in love with the sport (and) what motivates you to do so.” But for a more practical perspective, he said put his phone across the room, so you have to get out of bed to turn off the alarm. He’s also trying to schedule afternoon training sessions, which was especially helpful before Tokyo given the time difference with the east coast.

“He’s just a typical guy,” said Thomas Edge, a Centenary freshman, a Jefferson midfielder. “Sitting here listening to him you can tell he’s just one of us. He went from playing football to, in 18 months, competing in the Paralympic Track and Field Games. lower when it started. It shows if you put into this work, you can achieve what you visualize yourself doing. “

Jane Havsy tells stories for, which is part of the USA TODAY NETWORK. For full access to live scores, the latest news and analysis, subscribe today.

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