Tobi Fawehinmi went back to London, the site of the last Olympic games, and knew what he had to do to improve his previous appearance there — when he was a 16-year-old Mansfield Summit student.
When the Paralympics took place four years ago, Fawehinmi was there to compete, but came away without placing in either of his events.
This trip to London, this time to compete in the Para Athletic World Championships, yielded a gold and bronze medal in the triple jump and long jump, respectively.
Fawehinmi said his additional years of experience and training helped him come away with the medals the second time he entered the Olympic stadium.
“It meant a lot to me, especially being back in London to compete after five years. [The first time], I was just happy to be there. This time I had more of a mission and purpose and knew what I wanted to accomplish,” Fawehinmi said.
The UT Arlington graduate competed in the T47 division. Fawehinmi explained the divisions are graded classifications of degree of disability, with the lower the number, the higher disability level.
I amaze myself sometimes. I challenge myself if there’s something that I can’t do.
Tobi Fawehinmi on living with a disability
Having been born with brachial plexus, a disorder which impacts the group of nerves from the spine to the upper extremities, Fawehinmi competed at the varsity level while at Summit.
“I love to compete with able-bodied people to help push me for better results,” he said. “It’s great to have those people around to push and never give up on me. It brought a flame and fire back to compete, because you love what you do.”
The disability has taught Fawehinmi to develop ways of compensating — on the track and in day-to-day living.
“I amaze myself sometimes. I challenge myself if there’s something that I can’t do. With everyday challenges, my mom and sister challenge me to work with different things. There’s always another way to do it,” he said.
His gold-medal jump of 14.88m in London was not his personal best (15.53m).
In 2012, he was fifth in the triple jump. In the long jump, Fawehinmi fouled on his first two jumps. He thought he had again fouled on his third jump and gave up on the effort, only to learn it wasn’t a foul after all.
“At the end of the day, it was a learning experience,” he said of the Paralympic Games in 2012. “I learned to never not finish a jump. But that moment was a confidence booster. I had never competed in front of so many people and I was the most nervous as any event I had competed in. By the long jump, I was ready for it. I finally took it all in. It wasn’t a loss but more so a lesson. It happened for a reason.”
Fawehinmi said he will continue to compete and push it as long as he can. He said there is still the Pan Am Games and World Championships in 2019 and the Paralympic Games in 2020 in Tokyo, where he wants to compete for the United States.
“To represent your country feels great. There’s nothing like it to wear the those letters on your chest,” he said.
In the meantime, he said wants to move on to graduate school to study exercise physiology after majoring in kinesiology at UTA.