No it’s not Chuck Norris in a wheelchair, it’s Kevin Saunders; one of the greatest US wheelchair athletes of all time. The first person with a disability to serve on the President’s Council of Physical Fitness (under President George Bush), and reelected by President Clinton, Kevin Saunders has been like a phoenix since his spinal cord injury nearly 34 years ago.
And that’s not all. He went on to become a Paralympian in track and field, an all-star athlete in wheelchair racing and he even worked with Oliver Stone as a consultant on his famous film, Born on the 4th of July.
Now one of the most well-known speakers in the world, read on for Kevin Saunders’ unforgettable story.
Why he’s fearless
When he was a young buck and a recent graduate from Kansas State University, Kevin got a job as an inspector for the FDA. While on the job in Corpus Christi, Texas in 1981, while inspecting a grain silo in 1981, a violent explosion occurred. Over 40 people were killed and Kevin was thrown 300 feet. He survived despite breaking his back in two. The fact that he survived is a miracle.
Two years post-injury was when he was introduced to wheelchair sports; racing to be specific. At first he scoffed at the idea, picturing old people in wheelchairs, but after going ans competing in the Peachtree Race in Atlanta, Georgia, he was hooked. And seeing pictures of Randy Snow winning in the 1984 Paralympics at the time only fueled his desire to one day win a Paralympic medal.
He connected with Randy, and the two trained to get ready for the 1988 Paralympics in Seoul, South Korea. Kevin finally won his Paralympic medal – a bronze in Track and Field (with his expertise in pentathlon, shot put and javelin). And after the Paralympics, he won several medals in track and field at wheelchair events all around the world.
In 1991, he even worked with Kansas State University’s Engineering Department to develop a better sports wheelchair in preparation for the Barcelona Paralympics. Sports chairs are what hooked Kevin when he was first introduced to wheelchair sports, loving what they were capable of.
And in the 2000’s, Kevin went on to become a top wheelchair racer in Texas, winning marathons from Houston to Atlanta and still races till this day. Overall, in his entire athletic career post-injury, he has taken part in over 700 competitions. He even pushed from Michigan to Texas in 3 months. Because of his great athletic experience, he was named one of the greatest all-around wheelchair athletes in the world.
Sports however has been just one slice of Kevin’s life post-injury. He got married and had a son, and speaking to sports teams, corporations, schools and disability groups is another passion of his. When he speaks, he loves to talk about discovering the champion in each and every one of us. Remember, he’ll say, “Nobody is willing to sacrifice as much as you are to be the best.”
He also spoke to the Kansas State football team between 1991 and 2005 each season, helping to motivate players, per the coach’s request (you can watch one of his speeches below). And he’s written 5 books over the years, including his most well-known, There’s Always a Way and Blueprint for Success, showing others how to overcome anything. We also love his foundation – the Wheelchair Success Foundation – a scholarship fund for students with disabilities.
We really do have the strength in each and every one of us. That is Kevin’s hallmark message. It’s no wonder he’s been named one of the top motivational speakers in the world. The adapted sports community wouldn’t be where it is today without Kevin.
Have you heard Kevin speak? What makes him so good?
– Kevin’s site: KevinSaunders.com
Watch the videos!