Athens’ Jarryd Wallace and the U.S. Paralympic Team’s 4×100-meter relay squad burst on to the international scene last summer at the world championships, and the reverberations of their world-record time and gold medal victory are still being heard.
Wallace was among one of the four members of the national team’s 4×100-relay squad honored by the U.S. Olympic Committee on Wednesday in New York as the Paralympic Team of the Year. The USOC recognized the team as part of its 100-day countdown to the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics.
Wallace and the squad won a gold medal in July at the International Paralympic Committee Athletics World Championship in France, becoming the first Paralympic squad to break 41-second mark and finishing in 40.73. The previous world record was 41.78 seconds.
“Honestly, it’s just such a humbling experience being able to stand out there and represent the Paralympic community and to receive this award,” said Wallace, who had the opportunity to address the crowd in Times Square during the ceremony. “It’s an amazing accomplishment. When we raced [at the world championships], it was only the second time the team had raced together.
“It really shows how important teamwork and unity are, and one of the things I talked about when I got to speak was the importance of coming around the concept of selflessness and really focusing on a team goal. Between those two things combined, we were able to get on the track and leave it all out there.”
The next big meets on the world circuit include the 2015 PanAm/Parapan Games in Toronto and IPC Athletics World Championships in Doha, Qatar. Wallace said he and his teammates — Blake Leeper, Richard Browne and Jerome Singleton — have made plans to train together routinely and have set their sights on breaking the 40-second mark.
“[The world record] definitely gave us a mindset where we know our potential,” Wallace said. “One thing we’re going to do this year is train together every few months. We’ll all go to a new spot and work together just on our unity and competing as a team, training and pushing each other. … We’ve studied the film [from the world championships], and we think there’s at least half a second we can take off on exchanges alone, and we all plan on getting faster as individuals, which will help the relay, as well.”
Wallace was a star runner at Oconee County High School and signed with Georgia, where his father, Jeff, is the women’s tennis coach and his mother, Sabina, was a runner.
Wallace’s college career ended before it could begin as compartment syndrome led him to have his right leg amputated below the knee. Since his recovery, he has been competing at the national and international levels and does so in the T44 category for athletes with a single below-the-knee amputation or with reduced function in one or both legs.