ROYAL AIR FORCE LAKENHEATH, England - Scott Winkler, U.S. Paralympian, lifts weights at the fitness center Aug. 20, 2012. Winkler is competing in shot put, in which he ranks 3rd in the world and is currently the American record holder. More than 50 U.S. Paralympians and hopefuls will be honing their skills and making final preparations here Aug. 18 through 25 for competition in the London 2012 Paralympic Games. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Connor Estes)
Scott Winkler trains prior to the 2008 Paralympics Games in Beijing in this undated photo. Winkler now faces his second Paralympics Games in London. Winkler along with 56 U.S. Paralympians and hopefuls will be honing their skills and making final preparations at RAF Lakenheath Aug. 18 through 25 for competition in the London 2012 Paralympics Games (Photo courtesy of U.S. Paralympics)
by Staff Sgt. Megan P. Lyon
48th Fighter Wing Public Affairs office
8/29/2012 - ROYAL AIR FORCE LAKENHEATH, England -- His personal mantra is "If you believe, you can achieve," and those words have taken Scott Winkler far.
Despite being paralyzed below the chest, the U.S. Army veteran has set several new world records in shot put, has placed 5th in shot put at the Beijing 2008 Paralympics Games and has earned several gold and bronze medals at the Para Pan-American games in both shot put and discus.
Now he's setting his sights on gold at the London 2012 Paralympics.
Winkler's story starts years earlier; after high school he joined the U.S. Army in 1994. He left in 1999 but decided to re-enlist in 2001. In 2003 while deployed to Iraq, he fell from a truck while unloading ammunition.
"I was laying face up but my lower part had completely rolled around," said Winkler. "The sergeant came up and said 'Don't move son.' I asked him 'Why?' I didn't feel anything. There was no pain. He took the (ammunition) rounds off my chest and I looked down and that was it. Shock set in."
He was medevaced to the states, eventually to Fort Gordon, Ga. and Charlie Norwood Veteran's Affairs Medical Center spinal cord unit in Augusta, Ga. for rehabilitation.
During his hospitalizations, he discovered his natural talent for shot put after his friend, Jeff Snover, finally convinced him to try wheelchair basketball.
"I was bad at basketball when I was able-bodied, so I wasn't sure how good I would be in a wheelchair," said Winkler.
He had potential though and it was seen. One of his coaches, Judie Thompson, approached Winkler and tried to convince him to go to the U.S Olympic Committee's 2006 Paralympic Military Sports Camp in Colorado Springs, Colo.
Winkler baulked at first. When pressed on why he didn't want to go, he explained, "Because these are the elite athletes of the world. Those are the greats among the greats. There's no way I can do anything like that."
Thompson persisted and eventually persuaded him to visit Colorado to be evaluated for his potential as a Paralympic athlete, a move that catapulted Winkler onto his path as a Paralympian.
For the former Soldier, the opportunity to represent his country on the U.S. Paralympics team is a great honor.
"I wore the (military) uniform; now I wear the athletic uniform," said Winkler.
Now that the training at RAF Lakenheath is complete and the games have begun, Winkler will have a chance once again to wear gold.
"I fought for my country," Winkler said. "Now I win for it."
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