When Scott Winkler says he is in London representing his country, it isn’t just lip service.
Before leaving for London just over a week ago to prepare for this year’s Paralympic Games, Winkler was like a child at Christmas when his new wheelchair arrived.
Built by Cook’s Machine Shop in Alaska, his custom-made chair has a red hub, white spokes and blue rims, with a flag cutout on the side. The back of the chair is embroidered with USA Thrower in red, white and blue. It’s a symbol of how deeply he wants to win gold for the United States.
“I’ll be happy with other medals, but I really want the gold medal,” said Winkler. “I really want to represent our country to the most, and hitting that golden medal would be the best.”
He said he was nervous and has had some up-and-down moments, but his wife Brandi, who doubles as his throw coach, has been there to keep his spirits up.
“In the house I try to keep him positive,” Brandi Winkler said. “I’m positive either way, but especially as the wife.”
His first week in England was spent at Royal Air Force Lakenheath training with other U.S. paralympians. Now they have moved into the Paralympic Village. Brandi, his mother and his aunt will be there to cheer him on.
“I can’t worry about what they’re doing or if they need something,” said Winkler. “I have to focus on what I’m there for. They understand that. It’s great that my wife is going to be there. I might not see her the whole time. But at least I know she’s there.”
Winkler said he watched the Olympics every day and lived and died with the U.S. team, especially his shot put counterpart.
“I’m rooting for everybody and I’m glad that (Reese) Hoffa got a medal,” Winkler said. “I just hope as a shot-putter I follow in his footsteps. Achieve the highest, but be happy with what you get.”
As a co-founder of the local Champions Made From Adversity, Winkler also is hoping his efforts will inspire.
“It’s what I’m trying to do with our organization, show that there’s life with disability,” he said. “It’s called ability. It’s what you can do, not what you can’t.”
Winkler made it to the Beijing Paralympic Games in 2008, finishing fifth, basically flying by the seat of his pants.
“Now I feel different going this time like I know what I have to do,” Winkler said. “This is it. This could be my last run.”
Winkler will compete Saturday at 5 a.m. local time. Several Web sites are set to provide daily coverage, including www.paralympic.org.