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John Register Paralympian: Embrace the New Normal Mindset
Since childhood, sports have been John Register’s passion. A born athlete, he began swimming competitively at a young age, and soon added baseball, football and eventually track and field to his repertoire.
After high school, Register earned a scholarship to the University of Arkansas, where he became a four-time All-American — once in the NCAA long jump, once in the 55m high hurdles and twice on the 4x400m relay teams. Upon earning his BA in Communications in 1988, John enlisted in the U.S. Army, where he proudly served for six years. A Desert Shield and Desert Storm veteran, he continued to pursue athletic excellence while on active duty, participating in the Army’s World Class Athlete Program and winning nine gold medals in the Armed Services Competition, as well as two World Military Championships.
In 1988, John qualified for the Olympic trials in the 110m hurdles, and again in 1992 for the 400m hurdles. With these accomplishments, he seemed destined to compete as a member of the 1996 Olympic Team. On May 17, 1994, however, his life would be forever altered with one misstep over the hurdle.
A faulty landing hyper-extended John’s left knee, resulting in a severed popiliteal artery. An attempt to reconstruct the artery using a vein from his right leg failed; within days, gangrene turned the muscle black, and amputation was suggested. The alternative was a useless left knee and ankle, which would restrict his movements to a wheelchair for mobility.
Though the experience was devastating, John refused to be stopped by the injury. With a strong faith in Christ and the support of his wonderfully supportive wife Alice, he chose amputation, and through the use of a prosthetic leg, he walked again – and eventually ran.
During his long journey to recovery, John began using sports as a conduit to rehabilitation. At the Brooke Army Medical Center, he began swimming for cardiovascular fitness. It was during the first few swim sessions with his personal coach that an inspiration to compete again was born. After only 18 months of rehabilitation and training, John qualified for – and made – the 1996 Paralympic Team, competing in Atlanta, Ga. in the 50m freestyle. He also competed in the finals of the 4x400m-medley relay, swimming the anchor.
While watching closed-circuit television in Athlete Village during his first Paralympics, John observed athletes with one leg running and jumping on the track. Excited by what he saw, an idea was birthed, and after being fitted with a running prosthesis, he set a goal of competing in track and field at the 2000 Paralympic Games, in Sydney, Australia.
Not only did John begin to run, he began to make history! Two years after his first run with an artificial leg, he earned the Silver medal in the long jump at the 2000 Paralympic Games and set the American long jump record in the process with a distance of 5.41 meters (17.8feet). He also sprinted to 5th place in both the 100 and 200m dashes.
John’s life has truly come full circle in his transformation from All-American long jumper to Paralympic Silver medalist. His exceptional story of courage and inspiration led him to found Inspired Communications, where he serves as inspirational speaker, helping his audiences apply life lessons learned through times of testing to focus on what is possible.
“I did not overcome the loss of my limb. To overcome the loss would mean I’d have to grow it back. What I overcame were the limits I placed on myself and that others placed on me. This is what is universal for all of us to overcome.” John Register
His powerful keynote, “Hurdling Adversity”, challenges audiences both young and old to unleash the inspiration in them. John has been a spokesperson for Hartford Insurance Company, the American Plastics Council, the Ohio Willow Wood Company, and Disabled Sports USA. He has been a solutions engine for more than 50 companies, and featured on numerous national television programs, to include: PAX TV’s “It’s A Miracle” with Richard Thomas, FOX’s “The Edge” with Paula Zahn, NBC’s “Weekend Today Show” with Sara James, and MSNBC’s “Morning Blend” with Solidad O’Brian. He has also been profiled several times in The New York Times, The Washington Post, ESPN Magazine and the Washington Kid’s Post.
Subsequent to his 1994 amputation, John remained active with the military- first as a civilian employee of the Army working as a sports specialist with the Army’s World Class Athlete Program, then as a program specialist with the U.S. Army B.O.S.S. (Better Opportunities for Single Soldiers) Program at the Community and Family Support Center (CFSC) Headquarters in Alexandria, VA.
In 2003, he accepted a position with the United States Olympic Committee (USOC), and birthed the USOC Paralympic Military Program, which uses sports to assist in the recovery of wounded, ill or injured service members. The program which serves both active duty and retired military personnel has impacted thousands in creating their new normal.
Register is both volunteer and civic-minded, and frequently engages in peer mentor visits at military and veteran hospitals, serves on numerous boards, and was one of 35 co-chairs who acted as a surrogate for President Obama’s 2012 re-election.
John is married to the former Alice Johnson. The couple has two children (John Jr. , 29, and Ashley, 21). John also is the father of Ron Register, 30. Alice and John reside in Colorado Springs, Colorado.