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Local veteran competes in National Wheelchair Games

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While two Bronxites compete overseas for Olympic glory, one local veteran has made a name for himself winning medals in a national competition, all while confined to a wheelchair. 

Donald Young competed in five events and won three bronze medals during the 28th National Veterans Wheelchair Games held through July 29, in Omaha, Nebraska. 

Attracting nearly 500 athletes each year, the National Veterans Wheelchair Games is the largest annual wheelchair sports event in the world, featuring athletes with spinal cord injuries, amputations or certain neurological problems. 

Young has been a competitor at the games for a number of years.  “This will be my fourth year competing at the Wheelchair Games,” he said.  “What a milestone!  I have come a long way.”

Young is a Marine Corps veteran who served America between the Korean and Vietnam wars and then worked for 28 years as a train dispatcher before a debilitating disease paralyzed him and confined him to a wheelchair in 1999. 

Looking to enjoy his retirement from the Transit Authority, Young came down with a rare virus that affects only 200 people a year, and usually in warmer climates.  The disease left Young a quadriplegic suffering from neurological damage. 

“I thought I was invincible,” he said. 

But the disease never stopped the 69-year-old former resident of Fort Schuyler House, on the Cross Bronx Expressway, who now receives care at the Bronx VA Hospital. 

Unable to move, Young didn’t give up and the elderly resident began to slowly regain strength in various muscles.  Once he did, Young was able to move around in a wheelchair, slowly turning a negative into a positive. 

“The National Veterans Wheelchair Games allow me to challenge my skills,” said the former White Plains Road resident.  “I’m very proud of my accomplish­ments.”

Young competes in different events every year, including bowling and javelin.  This year, Young came up short in the discus and the shot put throwing the objects for 04.92 meters and 03.10 meters, respectively. 

But Young proved a difficult opponent to beat in the Motorized slalom competition, winning third place in a time of 2:28.89.  He would finish in a similar spot during a Power Chair 200 competition, finishing the 200-meter course in 1:04.15, for the bronze.  Young would complete his championship run with a third place finish in the Weightlifting Quad competition. 

His victories have become an inspiration to others in similar predicaments.  “It may seem hard,” he said, “but you should never give up.  There is still a lot of living left to do.”

For more information on the Wheelchair Games, go to www.wheelchairgames.com

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