The Professionals: 3 Adapted Athletes Who’ve Gone Pro


Adapted athletics can be a serious business; it’s not all feel-good times. For those who excel at their chosen sport, professionalism is a possibility. From wheelchair racing to bodybuilding, you can get paid to perform, and it can pay well.

Bear in mind, there aren’t thousands of adapted athletes in the world. Hundreds is more like it, which means you gotta be good – quite good – to snag a professional contract in your sport of choice.

It is more than possible however, and here are three adaptive athletes who’ve made their professional careers a reality.

Video #1:  Wheelchair Racer Amanda McGrory

When you think of wheelchair racing, often one name comes to mind – Tatyana McFadden – the wheelchair racer from Boston. However we wanted to profile Amanda McGrory, another 25 year old wheelchair racer who’s gone pro from the east coast, from Philadelphia, who began racing in since 2006.

Since beginning to race, Amanda has landed some impressive victories. She won a gold medal in wheelchair racing in the London Paralympics in the 5000 m and she won the New York Marathon in 2011.

And while she was at it, Amanda also snagged a full ride to the University of Illinois in wheelchair-basketball. Who says wheelchair athletics don’t pay? Her sponsors are both Invacare and Supracore.

Watch: Amanda McGrory’s rise in the world of wheelchair racing

Video #2: Wheelchair Bodybuilder Dan Smith

Meet Britain’s only professional wheelchair bodybuilder Dan Smith. In 2006, Dan was in an accident at work that left him a paraplegic. It wasn’t until 2008 when he finally returned to the gym and when he did, a friend challenged him to get back into shape so he could do a guest spot at a bodybuilding show.

Dan got so into shape for his friend’s show that afterwards he was invited to the Wheelchair World Championships in Poland in 2009, and unbelievably – he won. Dan became the first amateur wheelchair bodybuilding champ in the IFBB.

Not surprisingly, a year later in 2010 Dan turned pro, and his current sponsor is Xenca Revitalise Collagen supplements. Check him out below!

Watch: Xenca Talks to Dan Smith World Champion IFBB Wheelchair Pro Bodybuilder

Video #3:  Adaptive Motocross Rider Ricky James

Ricky James, a T6-7 paraplegic and a previous SCI Superstar we’ve profiled, is one of the few paralyzed professional motocross riders that competes with able-bodied riders. Injured in 2005 as a teenager, the-then professional Ricky James was determined to remain pro, and remained pro he has.

First, he began riding again on his old bike a year exactly after his injury, and he’s currently riding a modified KTM 450 SX-F bike. Since going pro again, Ricky has competed in SCORE International Baja 500, a truck race, the X Games and he’s working towards becoming an elite Ironman athlete in their World Championships.

Currently – Ricky is sponsored by both SoCal SuperTrucks and Rockwell.

Watch: Paralyzed Action, Adventure, & Motor Sports Athlete Ricky James

The point of this post – to prove that an awesome athletic career does not have to end because you can no longer walk. Yeah it’s no fun being paralyzed and it may be quite different competing post-injury, but it’s definitely better than no career at all, and we know each athlete above would agree.

Who is your favorite professional adaptive athlete?

Photo courtesy of Dylan Coulter

Watch the videos!

Pro wheelchair racer Amanda McGrory

Pro world champion wheelchair bodybuilder Dan Smith

Pro motocross rider Ricky James

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