April Holmes Video Interview, Paralympic Runner
For U.S. Paralympic athlete April Holmes, a January 2001 train accident, resulting in the amputation of her leg, changed her life forever. A strong track athlete and basketball player, Holmes believed she that would never compete again until her doctor gave her magazines about the Paralympics while she was recuperating in the hospital after the surgery.
“I didn’t know anyone who was a Paralympian,” Holmes told Uinterview exclusively. “I didn’t know anyone missing their leg, and probably the most disabled people I knew were elderly people I saw at the church or malls. When he handed me the magazines and I finally looked at them, I just kept turning the pages and kept saying, ‘I want to do this. I want to represent the U.S. I want to win a gold medal. I want to be the fastest in the world.’ From that day in January of 2001, until now, that has definitely been my focus, to represent the U.S., to be the fastest in the world and to win a gold medal.”
Seven years later at the Beijing Paralympic Games, Holmes won a gold medal in the women’s 100m. Before she won, she made a promise to God that she would show her medal to as many people as she could if he won. It’s a promise she has kept ever since. “I take it so many places, show it to so many people,” she told Uinterview. “In that regard my life has changed, because so many people are like, ‘You’re going to pass your gold medal around to people, let them hold it, let them see it, let them touch it?’ and I’m like, ‘Yeah.’ That’s the promise I made to God. If you give it to me, if you bless me, I’ll definitely be a blessing to other people.”
As for Holmes’ motivation, while she acknowledges her role in being an inspiration to people with physical and learning disabilities, her desire to win and compete are just as important. “I also say to myself, when a person stands on top of that podium, there will be a national anthem played. The question is will it be yours?’ So that’s my motivation every day.”
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I was involved in a train accident in 2001. When I woke up from the train accident, I learned that my leg had been amputated. I was initially devastated because I had been running track since I was a kid and playing basketball since I was a kid. Those were two sports and things that brought me joy. To know that I was no longer able to do these two things — or to believe that I was no longer able to do these two things — I was devastated. Lo and behold, the doctor that had done my emergency surgery, he came in my room a few weeks after my accident and he handed me some magazines about the Paralympics. Initially I thought he was crazy. I didn’t know anyone who was a Paralympian. I didn’t know anyone missing their leg and probably the most disabled people I knew were elderly people I saw at the church or malls. When he handed me the magazines and I finally looked at them, I just kept turning the pages and kept saying "I want to do this. I want to represent the U.S. I want to win a gold medal. I want to be the fastest in the world." And so, from that day in January of 2001, until now, that has definitely been my focus, to represent the U.S., to be the fastest in the world and to win a gold medal.
There are so many people along the Olympic journey that I believe helped me get to the top of the podium. Whether they be medical staff — the Olympic training center in Chula Vista has the best medical staff there. I thank them. The people that cook for us at the Olympic training center, the people that run the Olympic training center. They encourage you. They’ll say "I’m cheering for you." They’ll say "Go Team USA." You never know who you may meet in the long journey of life. I try to remain open about where I might find inspiration. I just try to find inspiration from anyone and everyone. Now I’m down at ESPN Wide World of Sports at Disney in Orlando and there are so many younger kids or amateur activities going on there. I believe they’ve been a part of my Olympic journey. My family has been continuously supportive, I’ve got an awesome group of friends. There are so many people along the way that kind of hoist you up to the top of the podium I think. I can’t single-handedly name a person other than God and my mom that I believe were hoisting me higher than others. At the same time, there are so many people along the journey that just kind of do something, whether it’s something very small or large. To say, "Hey, I believe in you," or "Hey, I’m cheering for you," or "Go Team USA." Those kinds of things — I believe all those people are hoisting me up to the top. I tell people all the time, "It takes an entire nation to raise a gold medalist." They’re doing a good job raising me.
There’s no difference in my training in how it relates to me being a Paralympian versus being an Olympian. I train with Olympic athletes every day. I get the same workout. I may get a few extra seconds of rest sometimes if I tell my coach something’s wrong with my leg. I’m like, "Coach, there’s something wrong with my leg, I’ve got to take my leg off, I’ve got to wipe it down," or something crazy just to get a couple more seconds of rest. But as far as the workout is concerned, I do the same workout they do. So many times we’re in practice, and I just sit there like, "I have to beat them or something." I train with some of the fastest people in the world. I get on the starting line, and I’m like, their PR is this and my PR is this, we’re obviously seconds off, but if I can beat them off the starting blocks, or if I can beat them doing some drills, or even if we’re walking to a particular place and I can walk faster than them. That to me is just the competitive nature, just to go out and do something a little bit better. As far as training — fortunately or unfortunately — nothing’s different. I still have to go through the same regimen, everything they do.
I made a promise to God before I won my gold medal that if he gave me a gold medal or allowed me to win a gold medal through my talents and hard work and dedication that I would take my gold medal everywhere I went. I take it so many places, show it to so many people. In that regard my life has changed, because so many people are like, "You’re going to pass your gold medal around to people, let them hold it, let them see it, let them touch it?" and I’m like, "Yeah." That’s the promise I made to God. If you give it to me, if you bless me, I’ll definitely be a blessing to other people. I’ve spoken to crowds of thousands. I imagine that a couple of hundred thousand have already seen my gold medal, because the whole time I’m up there on stage speaking and whatever, or just doing an appearance or whatever, I’ll start the gold medal going around the room and I’m like, "Hey, if it don’t make it around the whole room, it’s not my fault. I’m passing it around for every single last person to see it." People are like, "I never held a gold medal before." I think to myself, of all the Olympians that you may have seen, none of them have ever thought to pass their gold medal around? But to me, with the promise I made to God, you give it to me and I’ll pass it around and let the world see it.
I don’t think it’s a secret. I think every athlete is out there trying to be the best. You put your country’s uniform on, you’re not only competing for yourself, but your competing for a whole nation. I also tell myself, "I’m competing for all people with physical and learning disabilities around the world who can’t do what I do." I’ve met so many people whose disability is more severe than mine. They’re like, "You go run, I’m cheering for you. I wish I could go do what you do." I think about people like that sometimes when I just don’t feel like doing something or I don’t feel like getting out of bed in the morning or I don’t feel like going to go lift weights, just small stuff that I don’t feel like doing. I think of all the people that want to do what I’m doing. I also say to myself, "At the end of the day, somebody’s National Anthem is going to be played. When a person stands on top of that podium, there will be a National Anthem played. The question is will it be yours?" So that’s my motivation every day.