At just 15 years old, Miguel is one of the top-ranked junior athletes in the United States, but the New Jersey teen has had a lot to overcome in his young life.
Raised in an orphanage in Columbia, Miguel is missing both of his legs, Aleteia reports. After a young graduate student from America adopted Miguel when he was about 3, he had a difficult time adjusting to his new life in America. He struggled in school and later was diagnosed with ADHD.
Tulia Jimenez-Vergara, Miguel’s mother, said she first saw Miguel when he was 2 years old and full of joy and energy, but when she brought him to America, he struggled to learn and make friends.
Then a special sports program worked a miracle in Miguel. At age 6, he began track and field sports with the North Jersey Navigators, a program to help disabled children engage in sports, according to the report.
Miguel remembered: “I didn’t want to train at first. My mother made me go to the first two track and field practices. When I trained, I was able to focus much more on my schoolwork. I was really mean. I ignored people. I was kind of a loner. Getting involved in sports changed all that.”
As the young boy began learning the discipline of sports training, he discovered that he also was able to focus more on his school work. His mother also spoke highly of the program, saying sports gave Miguel the chance to work off extra energy and make connections with his teammates.
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According to Aleteia:
Today, he does the 100, 200, 400, 800 and 1,500 meter, 5K, shot put, javelin, discus, swimming, archery and triathlons. He trains five days a week, two of them almost two hours away at the end of the state, with both the Navigators and the track and field team at Notre Dame High School in Lawrenceville, New Jersey.
“Miguel has matured to the point that he takes his training more serious, and he sees it as a necessity to reach his goals,” says John McKenna, athletic performance director for Notre Dame High School. “He gets no pampered treatment here, as he is pushed and challenged past his comfort zone every day. He does pull ups, push ups, sit ups, kettle bells. If Miguel keeps training out of his comfort zone, there are no limits to what he can achieve. I can see him in the Olympics someday.”
That’s not just the idle talk of a proud coach. Miguel doesn’t merely train or compete: he wins. He’s set several records and brought home 15 gold and four silver medals from the National Junior Disability Championships. Last summer he travelled to the Netherlands to compete in the International Wheelchair and Amputee Sports World Junior Games, winning one gold, three silver and three bronze medals. He is now one of the top-ranked junior athletes in the United States.
Grateful to the people who helped him and believed in him, Miguel said he wants to help other youth in situations like his.
“My goal in life is to raise awareness of sports,” he said. “Most people, if they’re born disabled or become disabled in an accident, feel bad about it. They need to move on and try something new, and sports can do that, when they see what they can do. And that goes for able-bodied people too. I want to be that coach for another child who thinks he’s not capable of doing something. I want to help.”
To meet that goal, Miguel started running a sports clinic at his high school to encourage other disabled children to explore their potential.
In today’s culture, children with disabilities are often told what they can’t do, and many are never given the opportunity to try. Many unborn babies diagnosed with disabilities are aborted because their lives are deemed less valuable. But, as Miguel’s story shows, people with disabilities are valuable human beings who can succeed if given the chance.