WESTMINSTER, Colo. — The top athletes across the country with physical disabilities competed in the Move United Junior Nationals in Westminster Colorado this past week. In addition to capturing some individual medals, some have the hopes of one day qualifying for the Paralympics.
"Events like these give kids the opportunity to explore different sports, it gives them the opportunity to see a Paralympic athlete, it gives them the opportunity to just be the best version of themselves," Matt Scott said.
Scott, who was the emcee of the event, is a five-time Paralympian, and a two-time gold medalist for Team USA's wheelchair basketball team.
"We're promoting a healthy lifestyle here. We're helping them becoming not only elite athletes, but just thrive in life," Scott said. "They're learning skills that they can learn all across the board."
The Move United Junior Nationals partnered with The Hartford to also give young athletes a new chance at their athletic pursuits. Three athletes chosen on a need-basis received the necessary equipment to pursue their passions. New equipment can mean the difference between competing on the Paralympic track or giving it all away.
"I can relive that moment. I can relive that moment and it really means everything to me because I remember distinctly not having the right equipment," Scott said. "Having the right equipment, especially in adaptive sports, it really means you can thrive in this sport."
Thriving right now is 12-year-old Jackson Ingram from Colorado Springs.
"I would say my goal is 2028 LA," Ingram said about his Paralympic pursuits.
He's not far off the mark. In fact, he set a new national record in shotput at the junior nationals.
"It would mean the world to me, knowing that you won trials, you won all of these things and you're going to be watched on live television with the whole world watching," Ingram said. "I will try to win gold but I'll just try my best."
Ingram's other focus is swimming, where he picked up seven medals, including six gold. But it's his appreciation toward his fellow competitors that stands out the most.
"You want to make them proud, but at the same time, you don't want to have that attitude where if you lose, you're upset," he said. "You just want to have that attitude where you keep trying and keep doing new things."
At 25 years his senior, Scott has seen some of his peers get jaded through the Paralympic process. Watching Ingram and the other young athletes perform at the Move United Junior Nationals, gives him hope for the future.
"I think that they can still find that joy in it," Scott said. "They can blank out all of the big stage and the pressure and just enjoy the ride and enjoy being a part of that sport and we're helping them be a part of that."
A moment to note from the event: Matthew Paintin, a 21-year-old from Littleton, Colorado, broke the world record for the 1500m race in the T35 class, with a time of 4:52.34. The existing record happened in Berlin, Germany in July 1994.