Scott Winkler practices for discus. (Disabled Sports USA)
Scott Winkler throws the shot put July 1 during the U.S. Track and Field National Championships at Marietta High School in Marietta, Ga. Winkler has been paralyzed from the waist down since being injured in the Iraq war. (Leigh Auerbach / Marietta Daily Journal via AP)
With a record-breaking shot put throw, a former Army specialist is the first severely injured veteran of the Iraq war to qualify for the 2008 Beijing Paralympics.
Scott Winkler, 34, hurled the 16-pound metal ball 10.01 meters at the http://www.usoc.org/paralympics/news_52863.htm">U.S. Paralympics Track & Field National Championships in Marietta, Ga., besting the previous world record by 0.25 meters.
His record-breaking throw at the competition, held June 30-July 2, earned him a place on the U.S. Paralympics Track & Field National Team.
Winkler, who last served with the 549th Military Police Company out of Fort Stewart, Ga., deployed to Tikrit, Iraq, in 2003. While unloading ammunition, he fell from a truck and severely injured his spinal cord.
Today, he is a wheelchair athlete who participates in the Wounded Warrior Disabled Sports Project, a partnership between Disabled Sports USA and the Wounded Warrior Project. The partnership offers year-round sports programs for troops severely wounded in the war on terrorism.
"I just want to do my best," Winkler said in a press release announcing his record. "I believed and achieved my goals. If you believe, you can do anything you want, and my end goal is to get to Beijing next year and win a medal."
Winkler also is a mentor in Disabled Sports USA's Youth Sports Mentoring Program, working with young wheelchair athletes.
"Scott is an outstanding example of the tremendous talent and motivation our wounded warriors possess," Kirk Bauer, a disabled Vietnam War veteran and executive director of Disabled Sports USA, said in the press release. "Scott's achievement demonstrates how much these fine young men and women can attain with the help of such programs as the Wounded Warrior Disabled Sports Project, providing sports rehabilitation and development; and the U.S. Paralympics providing training and opportunities for elite competition."
The previous shot-put world record, 9.76 meters, was held by Markku Niinimaki of Finland, set at the 2006 IPC Athletics World Championships, according to U.S. Paralympics officials.
For more information about the http://www.woundedwarriorproject.org">Wounded Warrior Project, call (904) 296-7350. For more information on http://www.dsusa.org/programs-wwdsp-about.html">Disabled Sports USA, call (301) 217-9840.