Para-athlete in Kingwood turns his disability into opportunity

A young man from Ukraine just completed his seventh marathon in a wheelchair! A family from Kingwood adopted him when he was 15 years old and help support his valiant efforts.

Jacob was born with spina bifida. His health was neglected in Ukraine before moving to the United States, and his leg couldn't be saved.

"Everything's great now! I have a prosthetic and I can walk, can't run, but am working on my skills to walk," says Jacob.

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He learned how to become competitive in a wheelchair, through TIRR Memorial Hermann in The Woodlands. They not only nursed him back to health but helped teach him important life skills, as well as how to have fun along the way.

"It was a pretty long journey, since I was new there, but those people were super nice to me! They teach me really well and even though my English skills weren't that good, they still explained to me how to do it," says Jacob.

Jacob never imagined he'd be able to play basketball, after his amputation.

"I really like basketball, it was a good experience for me. It was nice team there, they are really friendly.  I got to travel with them everywhere, to different states for competition, so much fun. It's a different chair than what I use in racing and everyday chair. At first, I didn't think I could do it. But after a few days, it wasn't as hard as I think," states Jacob.  

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While undergoing months of rehab at TIRR Memorial Hermann, he learned the power of parasports. 

Jacob recently completed the Boston Marathon and hit a personal record of less than 1 hour, 44 minutes! It meant a lot to him - seeing a show of support for his home country of Ukraine, along his route.

He says anyone can do it, with the right frame of mind.

"You just go step-by-step to get used to it being harder and harder journey. And when you get there, you’re like, ok, first one was hard, second one was easier. And you’re just getting used to it. So every future marathon is, like okay I'm ready, I know what to do," exclaims Jacob.

Now his coach is encouraging his biggest challenge yet and that's the Paralympics. Jacob is going to school now at the University of Arizona. He loves it there but admits he misses his family here in the Houston area.

For more information on parasports,  click here.