Representation is important. For a child with a disability like cerebral palsy, seeing adults and other children living with the same condition is powerful, inspiring, and …
A jogger with cerebral palsy, awarded a pro contract with Nike in October, says he’s still in shock that he was chosen.
CBS News reports
Initially when he started running he was falling. He would have bloody knees and 90 percent of the time he would pick himself up, and we would finish the run.”
Justin was never deterred. Not only did he want to run, but he also wanted to run fast, and that’s exactly what he’s been training for. As a toddler, he used a walker to improve his gait and in preschool, he attended physical therapy.
By the time he was in high school, he started competing on his track team, and captured the attention of Nike when he started wearing FlyEase shoes, according to Running Magazine. FlyEase shoes are designed to help people with disabilities put their shoes on and take them off with ease, while providing a comfortable fit.
Justin currently participates with the University of Oregon running club and can make it through a 7-mile run. Yet, nothing prepared him for the day Nike presented him with a pro contract shortly after he completed running club practice for the day in early October.
“This was perhaps the most emotional moment in my seven years of running!” Justin wrote on Instagram. “Growing up with a disability, the thought of becoming a professional athlete is as I have said before like the thought of climbing Mt. Everest! It is definitely possible, but the odds are most definitely not in your favor! Hard work pays off! Hundreds of miles, blood, sweat, and tears has lead me here along with a few permanent scars!”
Justin spoke to Runner’s World five days after he was presented with the pro contract. The college student was still in shock he was chosen and indicated that he’s still waiting for it to “sink in.”
I’m sure once I start getting more involved it will fully sink in. But for now, I’m more in shock that it’s happening. I knew they were thinking about giving me a contract, but with something like that, you don’t expect it to happen.”
Justin told the outlet that he never set out to become a professional athlete when he started running. He did, however, want to become a stronger runner and prove that despite his disabilities, he could make it happen. He also wanted to improve his quality of life. The determined jogger said he never gave up because “I saw that it was doing more good in my life than it was doing bad.”
Justin’s dad told CBS that he had never seen his son as emotional as he was after learning he was selected for the pro contract.
“Running really opened up doors to him. It gave him the opportunity to be on a team, to have friends, to be part of something,” Brett Gallegos said. “It’s been quite a ride and it’s only, quite literally, just beginning.”
Justin Gallegos is the first athlete with cerebral palsy to sign on a professional contract with Nike. To make the occasion even more special, he learned of the pro contract on Cerebral Palsy Awareness Day on October 6.