T & F: Clemons proud to represent fellow veterans on Road to London Kortney Clemons isn’t one to draw attention to himself. Though his story is inspirational and his athletic feats remarkable, one of the United States’ top Paralympic track and field hopefuls.
Photo Courtesy: www.cgsc.edu - Sgt. (Ret.) Kortney Clemons, Army Wounded Warrior and Paralympics Athlete has an amazing story.
Kortney Clemons isn’t one to draw attention to himself.
Though his story is inspirational and his athletic feats remarkable, one of the United States’ top Paralympic track and field hopefuls is a soft-spoken man who tries to blend into the crowd and “stay as normal as possible.”
“Most people, really, they would hardly know I was in the room,” he says, laughing.
Yet occasionally people will recognize him and thank him for his service or say they admire what he’s done, and he’s grateful.
It’s part of what makes Veteran’s Day, for him, a much more special day than it ever was before.
“I understand,” says Clemons, 31, an Iraq war veteran who lost most of his right leg in an IED explosion in 2005. “It’s a real good, feel good story, and I appreciate that … And when you do get those (comments from people), it feels good. It gives you a little boost, like, ‘OK, what I am doing is making a difference,’ and it gives you the energy to keep moving forward.”
Moving forward is something Clemons does at high speed.
Since returning from Iraq, he’s earned his bachelor’s degree at Penn State, become an elite athlete, told his story in the book “Amped: A Soldier’s Race for Gold in the Shadow of War” and had his unsuccessful bid to make the U.S. team for the Beijing 2008 Paralympic Games documented in the movie “Warrior Champions.”
Now, Clemons is working to complete his master’s degree at Kansas, training to make the U.S. Paralympic Team for London 2012 and is heading to Guadalajara for the Parapan American Games that begin with Opening Ceremony on Saturday, Nov. 12.
After recently tweaking his back, it looked as if Clemons would miss the Parapans. But when it improved, he decided to compete.
He just hates to turn down a chance to compete and measure his progress toward his ultimate goal, London. He calls it “part of my journey.”
“For me, it’s a big deal,” he says. “For me, I haven’t always been the best or gotten the results I would like, so for me to get an opportunity to go to the Parapan Ams is good.”
He’s happy with the progress he’s made in the 100m, 200m and long jump — the three events he’s targeted at next year’s trials.
Since 2010, he’s dropped his 200 time from 30.5 to 28.09 (eighth in the world rankings), shaved his 100 time from 14.1 to 13.8 (eighth) and long-jumped 4.59 meters (seventh).
“I’m barely at the bottom of the totem pole, so I have to continue to get better,” he says, laughing.
“I’ve been on that side of the fence before,” he adds, referring to missing out on a trip to Beijing in a year when his marks were terrific and he won the 100 meters (T42) at the U.S. Paralympics Track and Field National