NBC 7's Greg Bledsoe shares the story of Michael Johnston, a San Diego-based athlete who dreams of competing in the Paralympics. Johnston lost his leg in a car crash, but obstacles won't keep him from accomplishing his goals.
While most of us tune in to watch the Olympics, for the athletes competing in the games, it takes years of daily dedication to reach a lifelong goal. One local athlete who dreams of one day competing in the Paralympic Games says that very devotion drives his ambitions.
For Michael Johnston, learning something new is nothing new. His trainer in Solana Beach says that makes a workout on something called a “Fitwall” perfect for Johnston.
The exercise tool – which is propped up on a wall – is incorporated into a grueling workout that includes 40 minutes of climbing, stepping and sweating.
In other words, it’s exactly what Johnston needs to get him where he wants to go: Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in 2016, for the Paralympic Games -- a dream that has been a little harder than most for the Navy veteran.
Johnston was seriously injured in a car crash in 2003, losing one of his limbs.
“[I was] driving my motorcycle home and a young lady coming the opposite way made an illegal U-turn and found me and my motorcycle,” he recalled. “My leg was amputated on scene.”
Johnston would spend most of the next year in the hospital, where things he’d once taken for granted suddenly seemed new and difficult.
“Frustrating doesn’t do it very good justice,” Johnston said, remembering that first year of his recovery. “It’s extremely difficult.”
As time passed, he became more active. Eventually, walking turned into running, swimming and biking, and one very ambitious goal.
“[Going to the Paralympics] is definitely not a given,” he said.
Triathlon will be brand new to the 2016 Paralympic Games.
And, though very determined, Johnston admits that sometimes, the road to get there gets old.
Last year, Johnston fell off his bike during a race and sustained serious injuries.
“My foot came unclipped. I fractured my hip really bad.
Now, fully healed, Johnston says he’s been watching the Olympic athletes at the 2014 Sochi Games for inspiration and motivation.
“It’s just a reminder that it’s almost time; keep pushing; It’s coming,” he said.
It’s also a reminder to put the past behind him, which, to this athlete, is nothing new.
“It’s about now. It’s about pushing yourself now. It’s about doing what you can now,” he added.
To stay on course and achieve his dream, Johnston says he works out two to three times daily.