A local youth with aspirations of becoming a Paralympic athlete is moving closer to his goal this week.
Cole Wooten, a 13-year-old double amputee from Columbia County, is competing in the National Junior Disability Championship in Mesa, Ariz., through Saturday.
Wooten is competing in the shot put and discus events, as well as the 100-, 200-, 400- and 800-meter wheelchair races.
The championship in Arizona features more than 300 of the top junior disabled athletes in the country competing in seven different events over the span of a week. The ages range from 7-23 years old.
“This is my first time competing in something this big nationally,” he said. “It’s fulfilling. I don’t care if I don’t win a medal, I just want to compete.”
Despite his humble view on competing, Wooten has won his share of medals. He took home six gold medals in the UCO Endeavor Games in Edmond, Okla., June 3-10. He won gold in the 100-, 200-, 400- and 800-meter wheelchair races, as well as the shot put event. Wooten also set a junior national record in the 14-and-under division for discus throw.
“I didn’t think I would do that good, so it was a nice surprise,” he said.
Wooten is a member of Champions Made From Adversity, an organization that provides recreational opportunities to people with disabilities in the Augusta area. Krista Geden, program and services manager for CMFA, said Wooten is a great person to represent the organization.
“We’re trying to break into the youth side of things, and Cole is fantastic at being the face of the organization,” she said. “He’s outgoing, happy to talk to anybody and he always gives 110 percent.
“He’s showing kids that just because you’re in a wheelchair doesn’t mean you can’t compete.”
Wooten said his goal in the future is to become a Paralympic athlete, possibly as soon as 2016. With six gold medals from the Endeavor Games in his pocket and competing in the national championships at 13 years old, the confidence in him becoming a national athlete is there.
For CMFA, with every national event Wooten excels in, the organization is given more exposure and allows children the motivation they need to compete like Wooten. As he climbs the ranks of junior athletes, there could be more to follow his path in the future.
“He’s one of the younger ones, but he likes to try everything out,” Geden said. “He’s great at motivating everybody.”