Scott Winkler returned from Beijing on Sept. 19 at 1:15 a.m. to a welcoming party at his Grovetown home. The guests included Jeff and Cheryl Snover, of Champions Made From Adversity; Winkler's mother and aunt; some neighbors; and, Olympian Reese Hoffa's father, Steve, and stepmother, Vicki.
The plan originally called for a party to meet Winkler at the airport, in Columbia, but Winkler called that off in disappointment about his finish.
His friends and family threw him a party anyway.
Winkler enjoyed cake and recounted tales from his time in Beijing, where he finished fifth in the shotput at the Paralympic Games.
He recently talked to The Columbia County News-Times about his trip.
The following are Winkler's words, edited only for brevity:
I called Jeff the day I threw, and I was kind of bummed, because I took fifth that night. I was like "Nah, I don't want nobody at the airport or nothing like that."
The night I threw, I sat around and I thought, "I can't be upset. Because I came. I did the best that I could do. I beat my personal best."
I couldn't sit there and say "If I'd have done this, if I'd of done that." I couldn't. There's no reason for it. I broke another American record again. If they didn't combine the classes (F55/F56), I would have took silver. I was chasing the world record holder. He took bronze.
Everybody has to throw three throws first. You have to be in top eight to go to the next round. If not, you're done. They escort you off.
When I ended up fourth, I was like, "Oh yeah -- I got a chance, I got a chance. I'm sitting pretty good."
It's a long wait period until after everybody throws again. You kind of cool down. When I came out, my first three throws were over 11 meters. My coach was in the stands. He couldn't believe it.
I stayed focused. I was nervous, because I was the smallest one out there throwing. Everybody's like two times bigger than me. And they have abs, and they have hip flexors. I'm throwing against amputees.
But I did what I was supposed to do.
I came with everything. I was bummed that, yeah, I didn't medal. But you know what? I still came and did what I had to do. In my heart, I still medaled, because I didn't let my country down.
I set my bar high. They know who I am now. The world record holder knows. He saw me. He watched, he watched, he watched -- and he got scared. He knows I'm coming after his world record, and he knows I'm not far away from it.
Leading up to the competition, everyone's knowing who's who. You can't miss the throwers, because they're humongous people.
Everybody knows who I am. That's kind of crazy, but I guess it's a good thing.
London better watch out, because I'm coming. I'm coming after the world record.
At first, I thought, "OK, I'm going to stop after this." I can't stop. I got to keep going. Just to go to these games and represent your country and see all these other countries, it's a great honor to do that and be amongst these elite athletes in the world. It makes you feel like you've accomplished everything in your life.
I bought the (replica) Bird's Nest as a souvenir. When you look at it, it shows the Bird's Nest. It shows the practice field outside.
But when you lift the nest off, it has the stadium.
And I can point exactly where I was, where we came in, where I threw. I showed Steve and Vicki Hoffa. I said, "Look, me and your son threw right here." Me and Reese both threw in the exact same spot, on the exact same day -- it was the 15th.
It's tough, just getting back. It's still sinking in.
The main thing that set in my mind through the whole thing is -- "I will not let my country down. I will not let the soldiers and the civilians down. And I will definitely not let my Uncle Ron (Nitchie) down." He passed away in 2006.
He was a Vietnam vet. He died the Monday before Christmas. And I made a promise to him I'd go to Beijing and try to win gold for him. And he said, "Go for it."
Me and him were the only two in our family that was military. I looked up to him so much.
I set out for what I was doing. I did it.
I made it all the way to the team through the hard times, through change of classification.
And I'm going back. I will be back.
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