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The Road to Gold: A Q&A with Three-Time Paralympian Brad Johnson

What does it mean to achieve without limits? For Brad Johnson, three-time Paralympian, it is a five-step process: dream big, set goals, envision your success, take action and maintain perspective. It sounds like good advice, especially after looking at a list of Johnson’s achievements over the past decade. Johnson embodies many of the International Paralympic Committee’s core values: courage, determination and inspiration.
Just recently, The Hartford Financial Services Group, the founding sponsor of the U.S. Paralympics, brought Johnson to the Bryant campus to share his inspirational story. Johnson has taken on a new role in partnering with The Hartford’s Achieve Without Limits campaign, touring the country to spread awareness for the partnership and celebrate the success of his fellow athletes. He also gave  us a sneak peek at this year’s upcoming Paralympic games.  The games will kick-off on August 29th, immediately following the closing ceremonies of the Olympic Games and the stories behind each athlete’s journey to the Paralympic state are incredible. We had the opportunity to sit down with Johnson to learn more about his story, what motivates him and what he hopes to achieve in these upcoming games. 

Describe your experience as a U.S. Paralympian.
I’ve been on Paralympic teams since 1999. My experience has been absolutely fantastic. Ithas opened up a world to me that I didn’t know existed prior to losing my legs. It has helped me in broadening my mindset. Because of my participation in the sports, I have been around the world many times, met people from all walks of life, varying disabilities and able-bodied as well. I’ve seen the positive impact in someone’s face, or the words they say to me, or just our interaction. My entire Paralympic experience has been a God send.

What do you enjoy most about your roles as a Paralympic athlete and advocate?
I really enjoy the instant gratification I get from seeing the positive responses from people. That feeds me. That feeds my soul. It’s all written on their face.

What have you taken away from your experiences competing in the Paralympics Games?
Preparation, preparation, preparation! It is key; not only just mentally and physically, but emotionally as well. It can be a serious rollercoaster ride.

With the demands of being an elite athlete, where do you find your motivation?

I love new intellectual and physical challenges. I enjoy just living and trying new things. The world is a big place. There is a lot to do, a lot to see. I try to do it all.In competition - my motivation is in winning. So I pump myself up along with my teammates. But in everyday life - professionally, I have to do all the pumping up and trying to find that inspiration to do whatever it is I have to do.  Overall, my biggest motivation comes from just being here because I almost didn’t have that option.

Where do you find your inspiration?
I find it in just living. I know it sounds cliché so to speak, but I can appreciate every aspect of life, even the bad stuff.  Because the bad stuff you are learning something from, either about yourself, someone else, situations, whatever it is.

What is one piece of advice that you have always carried with you?
I didn’t come by this statement until a couple of years ago, but I try to live this every day. “Life hangs on by a thin thread and the cancer of time is complacency.” If there is something you want to do, do it now because tomorrow is too late. It all boils down to being alive and paying attention to whatever possibilities or opportunities might be out there for me. I don’t put limits on myself.

What achievement are you most proud of?
I’m grateful for, and to, all the people who have helped me achieve my goals. After my accident, my initial goal was to regain my health and get my life back to normal as soon as possible. I achieved beyond my expectations and wildest dreams. If someone told me after my accident, that I was going to fly around the world, and meet fantastic people and compete on in international stage – I wouldn’t have believed them. The fact that I survived, successfully regained my health,  attended law school and graduated, practice law while continuing to deconstruct the misperceptions of individuals with physical impairments through competitions such as the Paralympics,  is not only my personal achievement, but is an homage to all of the great people in my life.  Not only that but my participation in sports has allowed me to directly, and indirectly, impact the lives of many people.  I’m proud of all of that, but I’m not an island. I’m here because of my good samaritan’s, and not only the rescuers - but the people I’ve met throughout my life.

What are you looking forward to most about the 2012 games in London?
Getting gold. The way I came about becoming a member of this team seems as though it was divine. I like to say that I put a call out to the universe. Back in 2010, I was still on the volleyball team, but I had an itch to get back on the water. I never voiced that desire to anyone. But when I returned home after the volleyball World Championships in July of that year, I decided that I was going back to sailing. About 3 days later, before I made the call to the Olympic coach, I got a call from the captain of my current sailing team. When I saw his number on my phone, I started doing a dance. I knew there was only one reason for him to be calling me- he needed me. It felt right. We were the 3rd ranked U.S. boat and we qualified the country for the 2012 Paralympics. After we won that qualifier, we all felt that this was possible. We came back to the U.S. and ramped up some serious training. In January, we won the U.S. team trials. For us, that was another confirmation – as if to say “you are on the right track - this is the path.” Nobody said it was easy or that it was going to be a walk in the park - but it is our path. This isn’t about a trip to the Paralympic games—this is about competing against the best sailors in the world for the number one spot.  Gold is the Goal!


For a complete bio on Brad Johnson: http://usavolleyball.org/athletes/brad-johnson
For more information about The Hartford’s sponsorship of the U.S. Paralympics: http://www.thehartford.com/cs/Satellite?c=Page&cid=1248974913066&pagename=GBD_Internet/Page/B3LandingPage3
To learn more about the Achieve Without Limits campaign, visit The Hartford’s Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/TheHartford?sk=app_157726500948244


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