On a hot and humid summer day, Scott Winkler drove to the Grovetown Middle School campus. The school is less than a mile from his home, and a small, grassy area situated between the football field and the end of the school's property makes a suitable spot for his workout routine.
Like any other day when he's not out of town, Winkler climbed out of his pickup truck ready to begin his training.
"Setting up is the hardest part," he said as he drove one of four iron stakes into the ground with a hammer. "It gets bad when it rains."
Winkler has no feeling from his abdomen to his toes. The Iraq war veteran suffered a spinal cord injury in Tikrit in 2003. The use of his legs, hips and abdominal muscles is gone, but the desire to compete is stronger than ever.
That's why he's one of the top paralympic track-and-field athletes in the nation. Although he picked up the sport less than a year ago, Winkler broke the F54 class world record in the shot put, and a paralympic record in the discus at the Endeavor Games in Oklahoma in early June.
This weekend he's one of only four athletes from Georgia competing in the U.S. Paralympics Track and Field National Championships. The three-day event taking place in Marietta, Ga., is the only qualifying competition for the 2007 Parapan American Games in Brazil.
As the world record holder, Winkler is a favorite in the shot put. That's what brought him out to the Grovetown Middle School field last week despite the hot sun.
The setup alone takes him at least a half-hour. He does it by himself - a process that includes securing a specially designed chair with four iron spikes, roping off the area and laying out measuring tape to check his distance. He also carries at least four shots and four discs.
"I fought for this country, I want to play for this country," he said in between tosses.
He will do exactly that as long as he hits the proper distance this weekend. Don't ask him what the distance is of his world record toss. He won't give it up easily.
"I don't want it out there for everybody to see and beat," he said. "Let's just say it beat the old record."
That old record was 9.7 meters. Winkler's toss in Oklahoma, which he hopes to beat at this weekend's competition, was more than 10 meters.
It's not his only hope when it comes to his sport.
"I coach a lot of people - especially youth," he said. "That's what I get out of it. When I see one of the kids I coach do well, it's great."
In addition to coaching and competing, he also organizes outings as the chairman for the Southeastern Paralyzed Veterans Association.
The many responsibilities seem to be more of a pleasure than a burden to him.
"Just because you're disabled it's not the end of the world," he said. "There's so much to do. You don't have to sit at home just because you're in a chair."
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