Meet the Fastest Amputee in the World

A single lane separated Jerome Singleton and the fastest amputee on the
planet, Oscar Pistorius as they stood at the starting blocks for the men’s
100m (T44) final at the 2011 IPC Athletics World Championships in Christchurch,
New Zealand. On paper, the rivalry between Pistorius and Singleton had been
particularly one-sided. Pistorius had not lost a 100-m race in a major
competition since the 2004 Paralympics in Athens. But Singleton was gaining. At
the 2008 Paralympics in Beijing, Singleton lost the 100-m race to the eventual
gold-medal winner Pistorius by .03 seconds. The instant classic in Christchurch
would somehow be even closer.

Photo finish

Singleton woke up in his hotel room the morning of the race in New
Zealand and began to pray. Singleton routinely endures a grueling training
regimen on the track and in the weight room to physically and mentally prepare
himself for competition. But that morning, he called on a higher power.

Jerome Singleton said that he believes it is his responsibility to try and play a role in expanding the Paralympic movement.
Jerome Singleton said that he
believes it is his responsibility to try and play a role in expanding the
Paralympic movement.
Image: Errol Anderson.

“When it comes to training, I put a lot of trust in my coaches to
put me in the best position to succeed,” Singleton told O&P
Business News
. “When it comes to mental preparation, as long as I
am healthy and feel prepared, I really do not have that much to worry about. I
usually try to get some quick tips from my coaches before I head out to the
track to perform. But I remember waking up that morning and just praying.”

In the race in Christchurch, Singleton surged off the blocks and
Pistorius clawed his way back in the final 10 meters. Both competitors finished
the race with an official time of 11.34 seconds. There are no tips for photo
finishes. Instincts take over. As the finish line approaches, lean forward with
as much force as possible. On this particular day, it was Singleton who finally
edged out Pistorius, his head crossing the finish line a mere fraction of a
second ahead of Pistorius. He won the race and the title that eluded him for so

“Being the fastest amputee on the planet is truly a blessing,”
Singleton said. “When it happened, I was just thankful to be in one of the
most memorable Paralympic finals of all time.”

Academic career

It is ironic that Singleton owns the distinction as fastest amputee on
the planet because that moniker clearly does not define him as a person.

Singleton was born without a fibula in his right leg on July 7, 1986. He
was 18-months-old when doctors amputated his right leg below the knee. The
Greenwood, South Carolina native remained active in sports including football.
He was named one of South Carolina’s top 100 senior football prospects
while attending Dutch Fork High School in Irmo, S.C. He was also a member of
his high school’s varsity track team.

Singleton’s academic career equaled his athletic achievements while
in college. Singleton attended Morehouse College, double majoring in
mathematics and applied physics. During his college career, he took part in
various research projects, earning an internship at NASA Glenn Research Center
in Cleveland, Ohio.

“I was given the opportunity to work on two projects,” he
said. “The first project was in oil-free turbo machinery where I
researched the effects of coating that would be used in the engine proposed for
the Mars Landing. My second project was focused on updating the Stereo Imaging
Viscroscopy system that was used for the early detection of cataracts.”

Further studies

While at Morehouse College, Singleton also spent 3 years conducting
research in an optics lab where he studied the photo activity of subterranean
termites, hoping to identify which light frequencies could be used as a
potential termite deterrent. He also went to CERN, the European Organization
for Nuclear Research near Geneva, Switzerland, where he studied the probability
of finding different dimensions in smaller spaces.

“This experience was eye-opening because it shifted the way I
looked at the world, but also taught me that I had a lot to learn,” he
said. “I also did a summer program at Park City Math Institute/Institute
of Advanced Studies where I studied Brownian motion, learning why things seem
to move randomly when it appears as though nothing is touching it.”

In December 2010, Singleton completed his goal of a triple major in
applied physics and mathematics from Morehouse College by transferring to the
University of Michigan and earning a degree in Industrial and operations

“While I was in school, my focus was on my academics,” he
said. “I used Paralympics as a way to keep my schedule structured. I knew
I needed to wake up, go to the weight room, go to class, go to office hours, go
to practice, and then get my school work done. I always felt I needed a strong
back up plan. For me, academics were [my back up plan]. Until I graduated, I
was not confident that I could be self sufficient. So I guess you could say I
was a full-time student and a part-time athlete.”

Motivation to succeed

Now that he has completed his academic studies and reached his academic
goals, Singleton has the opportunity to become a full-time athlete and can
concentrate on accomplishing more of his goals on the track.

“I feel that now that I have accomplished my goal of completing
school with a triple major, I will be able to dedicate myself to my
sport,” he said. “Though, when it comes to me, I am more proud of the
journey I have taken to becoming the fastest than being recognized as the

The rivalry between Singleton and Pistorius will gain more spotlight as
the 2012 Paralympics in London approaches. While an interesting narrative for
sports journalists, the rivalry may be slightly overblown, according to

“Honestly, I am just happy Oscar has played such a pivotal role in
bringing the Paralympics to the conscience of the everyday person,” he

Still, Singleton understands that now that he owns the title of
“Fastest Amputee in the World” there will be a target on his back in
future races. His competition is gradually improving. The 100-m race in
Christchurch was the first instance in which all seven competitors finished the
race in less than 12 seconds.

“Of course there is a target on my back, but it serves as
motivation because I feel it is my responsibility to try and play a role in
expanding the Paralympic movement and taking amputee sprinting to the next
level,” he said. “I feel that if I do not work hard, I am doing a
disservice to the sport I love and am disrespecting the athletes I compete
against each and every day.” — by Anthony Calabro

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