Scott Winkler says there is more than one similarity between him and Reese Hoffa, a two-time Olympian and alumnus of Lakeside and the University of Georgia.
Winkler, a Grovetown resident who will compete in September's Paralympic Games in Beijing, said they share similar throwing styles in the shot put. And both share a similar sense of humor.
Just ask Winkler's chiropractor, Dr. Bill Rice, who has been working with Winkler for about three years.
Whenever a new patient visits Rice's office, Winkler will often look up from his wheelchair and say, "You know, I walked in here."
Winkler will take his humor to Okinawa, Japan, on Aug. 21 to spend two weeks preparing for the Paralympic Games. He'll then travel to Beijing to compete in the shot put.
Winkler's teammates on the Augusta Bulldogs, a wheelchair basketball team, threw him a going away party Wednesday after practice.
"It's you guys' time to send him off," said Jeff Snover, a coach and one of Winkler's good friends.
"We're going to whoop you in a game of basketball," someone shouted at Winkler, and the group erupted.
"This ain't easy, man," Winkler told the group. "It's tough leaving you guys behind. But I'm proud of you guys."
"We're proud of you," came the response, and the whoops began again.
Winkler, who served with the U.S. Army during Operation Iraqi Freedom, set the American record for his classification in June with a throw of 10.97 meters. He began competing as a wheelchair athlete after he was injured in a fall from an ammo truck in Iraq in 2003.
The competition started with bass tournaments, and it moved to basketball after Winkler was sent to the Augusta Veterans Administration Hospital.
He found worldwide success when he picked up the shot put, but Winkler hasn't stopped his involvement with the Bulldogs. After speaking to the team, he was swamped with hugs and handshakes.
"We're going to miss him," Snover said. "But he's doing something we all strive to do."
Winkler showed off his new tattoo -- "USA" and Olympic rings on his right biceps. Michael Bradley shyly waited off to the side for a chance to speak with Winkler.
"MIIIICHAEL!" Winkler yelled. "Come over here, Mike."
Bradley presented Winkler with two signs he had made.
Winkler's schedule the rest of the week was expected to include a visit with Harlem Middle School pupils Friday morning. He will visit with Hoffa's family and try to catch some of Hoffa's performance in the Olympic shot put before throwing out the first pitch at the Augusta GreenJackets game Friday evening.
Winkler met Hoffa for the first time earlier this year at a media event in Chicago.
"I was like, 'Holy cow, this guy's big,' " Winkler said. "He's, like, twice my size."
Winkler watched videos of Hoffa's throws on the Internet and, despite Hoffa's ability to spin, found the two had similar throwing styles.
"Maybe when this is all over, we can have a backyard competition and get him down on my level," Winkler said. "That would be good to see."
Throwing in Friday's shot put finals, Hoffa finished out of contention for a medal.
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