Milwaukee Paralympian hoping for 2024 or 2028 games

MILWAUKEE – The Paralympic Games begin in Beijing on March 4. They feature the best athletes in the world who compete with a physical disability.

Milwaukee is home to an inspirational athlete working hard to compete in the 2024 or 2028 Paralympic Games.

Justin Rankin proudly wears his Team USA gear. Taekwondo is his passion.

“It brings me happiness,” Rankin said. “It’s my life.”

Rankin was born with cerebral palsy. When he was seven years old, his mother and grandparents looked for activities for him. Many gyms refused it.

“When I started, teachers would tell my mom they didn’t deal with people like me,” Rankin said. “It was really hard to find a place and people I could trust. That’s why I work so hard to do it. It’s not just for me. It’s for other kids with different physical abilities who are going through this. They are not sure what they can do. It hurts. Just because you have a disability doesn’t mean you can’t do anything.

Rankin hopes to one day open his own gym in Milwaukee.

“My ability is stronger than my disability,” he said. “You just have to think of something and believe you can do it. It’s in your mind. It’s in your heart.

He is a national advocate for people with special needs and has won dozens of medals and accolades in taekwondo competition. He works to qualify for future Paralympic games, but pays for each tournament out of pocket.

Unlike most Olympic athletes, very few Paralympians are able to find sponsors.

“These tournaments are expensive,” Rankin said. “You have to pay to get in, plus hotel, food, a plane ticket. I spent a lot of money in 5 years. Without funding or help to participate in these tournaments, I cannot compete.

He created a GoFundMe page asking for help and supporting him is more than helping him get to tournaments.

“I want to make sure we can get other kids and adults of all skill levels into taekwondo or any type of sport,” Rankin said. “I want them to know they can do it.”

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