Teen with Autism On the Road to Win Paralympic Gold

Teen with Autism On the Road to Win Paralympic Gold
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Mikey Brannigan of Team USA may have autism, but that hasn’t stopped him from setting a record during the Paralympic qualifiers.

During the qualifiers, the 19-year-old Brannigan finished 7th in the mile run with a time of 3:57.58, shaving 5 seconds off of his previous personal best record. But it wasn’t only himself that he beat: he became the first runner with a T20 paralympic classification (also known as an intellectual disability with an IQ under 75) to break the 4 minute mile. He is currently a favorite to snag the gold medal in his division. [1]

Brannigan’s coach, former Olympian Jozquim Cruz says of his star athlete, “He moves his body like classical music. It’s effortless.”

The runner has broken a world record during his time as a high school athlete, and was scouted by over 200 colleges. However, due to Brannigan’s autism, he was unable to qualify for Division I school as he did not meet the NCAA academic requirements.

Nonetheless, he is still able to continue running with the support of the New York Athletic Club and Team USA. He currently attends community college and his mother says that he hopes to attend the Olympic games in 2020 or 2024 where he will, once again, vie for gold.

Brannigan was diagnosed with autism when he was just 18-months-old, but despite this hurdle, his mother Edie says that she knew he had a gift for running.

Edie says of her son’s early days, “He went from crawling to running, and he’d be running into the walls.”

Brannigan began running in fourth grade after trying out several sports that he found he didn’t like as much. His parents enrolled him in the Long Island’s Rolling Thunder Special Needs Program where he began to thrive.

His training has, no doubt, worked out, despite the setback of not being able to run with a Division I school.

Last October, Brannigan won gold in the T20 1500 meters at the International Paralympic Committee World Athletics Championships in Doha, Qatar.

At the US Paralympic trials, he set a T20 world record by completing the 1500 meters in 3:50.05, winning the race by 40 seconds.  [2]

“My experience with Mikey, anything could happen. “I just want to tell people like, ‘Yo, stay tuned.’ He has shocked us all so many times, we’re unshockable now. Anything could happen. He could make that leap to the Olympics and win. That’s my prediction,” states his mother Edie.

Sources:

[1] NBC

[2] Runner’s World