CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WFXR) — Friends and family won’t be allowed at the Tokyo Paralympics, which open Tuesday in the Japanese capital. Unless, of course, that family member happens to be your coach.
“It’s been an incredible experience to be able to bring him along,” first-time Paralympian Nick Mayhugh said.
When Nick trains on the track, like he did in Charlotte on a warm afternoon two months prior to the Paralympics, his older brother, Thomas, is keeping a watchful eye.
“He puts his bucket hat on and he becomes a coach and that’s where we leave it at,” Nick said.
It’s a relationship that’s lasted all of Nick’s life.
“Unofficially, forever,” Thomas said. “It was kinda like, I played soccer, he played soccer. When I was doing stuff, it never felt like I was coaching him but you’re influencing it.”
And it’s a friendship that didn’t change, even after Nick was diagnosed with cerebral palsy in 2010, leading doctors to tell him to give up sports.
“Throughout the diagnosis that just came out of nowhere, it’s kinda like we didn’t skip a beat,” the older Mayhugh said. “They can tell us what they want. Our dad instilled in us from the time he was born that there’s no need to feel sorry. It’s pretty much positivity the whole way.”
Their bond was strengthened when the former Radford soccer player switched to track less than two years ago, setting a path toward the Tokyo Paralympics.
“We have never been in the track scene at all. You know, it’s this technical sport,” Thomas said. “The consistency is building up and you can see he’s becoming more comfortable as a track athlete.”
“He feels good knowing that he’s got times underneath him.”
Those times include a world record in the T37 100 meters at the U.S. Paralympic Trials in June, when Nick ran 11.21 seconds. T37 refers to the classification that he competes in, which includes athletes with cerebral palsy with similar coordination as Nick’s. He also set an American record in the 200 meters with a time of 22.8 seconds.
But being the fastest in the world hasn’t changed Nick’s mindset or his preparations.
“I’ve always been the underdog my entire life. I’ve always had that underdog mentality and I’ve always had my brother and everybody to keep me grounded and keep me pushing like nothing has ever changed,” Nick said. “I might have the world record but all those titles don’t mean anything if I don’t come home with gold.”
And in pursuit of gold, Nick has his brother by his side.
“He’s really been the only person throughout my entire life that’s been there every step of the way,” Nick said. “There’s only a few people in my life that really know how to push me where I need to go and he’s definitely one of them.”
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