Disabled Athlete Learning He’s Nike’s New Spokesperson Will Make Your DayAug 9, 2019
Nike recently signed their first professional athlete with Cerebral Palsy. The inaugural athlete is Justin Gallegos, a University of Oregon club runner who was unexpectedly presented with the contract upon finishing practice. The emotional moment was captured on camera; John Tuax, a Nike footwear marketing manager, gave Gallegos the contract as a film crew recorded it. The video was later shared on a special day—October 6, World Cerebral Palsy Day.
What is Cerebral Palsy?
Cerebral Palsy, or CP, is a group of disorders that affect one’s movement, motor skills, and muscle tone. It varies in its severity, but in general, it is caused by “abnormal brain development or damage to the developing brain” that later affects someone’s ability to control their muscle. Those with more severe CP might need equipment to walk or not able to walk at all. In less acute cases, the person might move a little awkwardly but are mobile on their own.
For Gallegos, his CP comes in the form of speech impairment and a lack of muscle control. He can walk and run without help, but his feet will tilt inward and sometimes drag on the ground and make him fall.
How Running Helped Gallegos
Gallegos began running during his high school freshman year in Santa Clarita, California. Although he stayed in the back (it’d be easy to knock him down), he made his goal of running a three-mile race in less than 10 minutes. As the season and later, seasons, went on, Gallegos continued to run and hardly missed a practice. He continued to achieve personal records and shaved nearly two minutes off his mile time.
Gallegos made many stumbles because of his congenital disorder, but running helped him learn to control his body. Now, he barely drags his feet and hardly ever falls.
In early 2018, a team of Nike innovators studied Gallegos’ gait and observed how exactly his feet landed on the grown when he ran. Based on that, as well as the runner’s own feedback, the company created the Nike FlyEase version of their Air Zoom Pegasus 35. Using the FlyEase technology, Gallegos can open and close his shoes in one motion without assistance. It also meant that he wouldn’t have to tie undone laces during a race.
Still in Shock at His Professional Status
Today on world Cerebral Palsy Awareness Day, I reached a milestone in my running journey! Today I made Nike history and became the very first athlete with Cerebral Palsy to sign a contract with Nike! You don’t realize how realistic and emotional your dreams are until they play out before your very eyes! Signing this contract was a huge success for me and I would not have made it without my friends and family and teammates! This was perhaps the most emotional moment in my seven years of running! Growing up with a disability, the thought of becoming a professional athlete is as I have said before like the thought of climbing Mt. Everest! It is definitely possible, but the odds are most definitely not in your favor! Hard work pays off! Hundreds of miles, blood, sweat, and tears has lead me here along with a few permanent scars! But the journey is damn sure not over!!! Looking back, I would guess there is only a few select people who would see me were I am today! I have gone through just about everything in the book to be where I am today! I was once a kid in leg braces who could barely put on foot in front of the other! Now I have signed a contract with Nike Running! Trust the process! And most of all trust in God! God is good! Thank you to all my friends, family, and teammates on running club, and now a brand new atmosphere on teammates with Nike! This moment will live forever! Thank you everyone for helping show the world that there is No Such Thing As A Disability! #ProfessionalAthlete #SWOOSH #Nike72 #NikeTrackandField #NikeXC #ThereIsNoFinishLine #StrongerEveryMile #NoSuchThingAsADisability #NikeRunning #Limitless #Breaking2 Video Credits: @elevation0m
Now a junior in college, Gallegos has come a long way in his seven years of running, and he regularly races 5K, 8K, and half marathon distances. (He’s also toying with running a full marathon.) He can hardly believe that he’s now a professional—nearly a decade of go, it seemed like an impossible feat. “Growing up with a disability, the thought of becoming a professional athlete is as I have said before like the thought of climbing Mt. Everest,” he wrote on Instagram. “It is definitely possible, but the odds are most definitely not in your favor!” Gallegos was once in leg braces and “could barely put [one] foot in front of the other. “Now I have signed a contract with Nike Running! Trust the process!”
Photo credits: Nike