Radford soccer alum Nick Mayhugh switches sports to get a shot at gold in Tokyo Paralympics

Japan 2020

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WFXR) — Now that the strangest Olympics ever is in the books, the attention shifts to the Paralympics. One Virginia athlete is getting set to go to Tokyo later this month and he’s hoping to win a medal in a sport he only picked up a couple of years ago.

“Whenever I’m out here on the track in a lane, I look up and visualize myself in the finals in Tokyo,” Nick Mayhugh said after a training session in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Mayhugh has always wanted to represent his country on the biggest stage, but the track wasn’t in his initial plans.

“Talking about it now, just thinking about it, my knees are weak, my hands are sweaty,” Mayhugh said. “I just get really nervous because it’s uncomfortable for me.

The Fairfax-native grew up as a soccer player, competing collegiately at Radford University before making the United States national team in seven-a-side soccer.

“Being able to travel the world, playing the sport that I love was an incredible experience,” Mayhugh said. “But it taught me to really live in the moment, just soak it all in and appreciate what you have.”

What Mayhugh has is a mild form of cerebral palsy, a disability he was born with and something he took a long time to accept.

“For 21 years of my life, I was very stubborn, very negative towards the idea of admitting to myself that I was disabled and admitting myself that I did have CP,” Mayhugh said. “I hid it from virtually everyone in my entire life for such a long time.”

Now, Mayhugh focuses on what he’s able to do. But it won’t be soccer. His sport of seven-a-side was dropped from the Paralympic program for Tokyo 2020, citing a lack of international participation.

“I sat back and said, ‘there’s gotta be another sport that I can do.’ And my coach was like, ‘you could run track and field’,” Mayhugh said. “It was just an idea and I didn’t think about it like that.”

USA track and field recruited him to become a sprinter in 2019 after Mayhugh played soccer at the Para Pan Am Games in Lima, Peru. Fast forward to the Paralympic Trials this past June in Minneapolis, where Nick broke a world record in his classification of the 100m dash. It’s an accomplishment that didn’t surprise him.

“I’ve done it in practice. I always knew in the back of my mind that I could do it,” Mayhugh said. “You walk into my apartment, I have taped up on the walls the times of the world records of the 100 and 200. I have it up there so that every day I see it, it’s always in the back of my mind.”

Mayhugh thinks he can run even faster in Tokyo and has high expectations.

“I’ve grown a lot. I’ve matured a lot. I’ve experienced a lot of different things that I never thought were going to be possible that were just dreams to me,” Mayhugh said. “And to be in this position, it’s just an incredible feeling but the job is not done.”

Mayhugh will run in the 100m and 200m events against other athletes with cerebral palsy. He’s also hoping to run in the 4x100m relay. The Paralympics begin on Aug. 24.

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