Local veteran, Paralympian sits down with KKTV

Published: May. 9, 2021 at 3:25 PM MDT|Updated: May. 9, 2021 at 8:03 PM MDT
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COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KKTV) - It’s never easy to experience a setback, but when an athlete has one at the top of their game, it can be devastating.

Local Paralympian and veteran John Register was one of the fastest hurdlers in the world and suddenly needed to have his leg amputated. He sat down with KKTV to tell us about his unthinkable choice and his refusal to stay down.

Register was an All-American in track and field at the University of Arkansas. After her graduated, he joined the Army and continued running.

“I was ranked eighth in the United States and top 20 in the world and the 400 meter hurdles,” he said.

One of the world’s fastest suddenly brought to a screeching halt in 1994.

“I messed up the hurdle. I dislocated my knee, severed the artery behind the knee cap.”

In an instant--his world changed. Register was told by doctors he could either keep his leg, but use a walker or wheelchair for the rest of his life, or lose the leg, and get a prosthetic. He chose to amputate, and say goodbye to everything he’s worked towards.

“So everything is gone,” he said. “Every dream that you have ever wanted is now gone. There’s no way I’m going to be the Olympic Games with one leg,” he said.

Register was devastated, but says his wife and his Army training helped him start to heal.

“She says to me, ‘you know what, John, we’re going to get through this together. This really is just our new normal,’ and with the new normal mindset, I began to retool.”

He began swimming for physical therapy and ended up qualifying for the Paralympic swim team. While training in the pool, he saw athletes doing what he used to do: running and jumping, but with prosthetic limbs. He said that moment changed his life.

“I could see there was this parallel path I didn’t even know about,” Register recalled. “And I had a leg made for running and I wound up winning the silver medal in Sydney, Australia with good Old Faithful there.”

His life had come full circle. A devastating miss-step turned into a silver medal on sport’s biggest stage. Register’s trusty prosthetic leg--he lovingly calls ‘Old Faithful’ now sits inside the Olympic Museum in downtown Colorado Springs.

His second chance, and a symbol of what is possible--so long as you never give up.

“When truth outweighs fear, we will commit to a courageous life. We will commit to courageous acts.”

Register founded the organization Inspired Communications International which helps people handle adversity and create life’s new normal by turning obstacles into opportunities. He currently is a full-time speaker, both virtually and in person.

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