Bradley Johnson lost both of his legs in 1993 when he was involved in a motor vehicle accident. Eleven years later, Johnson has participated in three Paralympic Games, Sydney, Athens and London in two sports, sit-volleyball (2000) and sailing (2004 & 2012). He is a practicing attorney and motivational speaker and believes that outcomes in life depend mostly on your attitude.
A: I’ve always enjoyed competitive sports prior to my accident. I believe the key motivating factor has been maintaining my good health. At the time of my auto accident I was in great health, which is the primary reason that I’m alive according to the doctors. This knowledge has fueled my desire to challenge myself physically.
Q: You’ve been to the Paralympics three times, what made you choose team sports as opposed to individual sports?
A: The opportunities to compete on different teams were presented to me, and I was interested in playing these sports. I enjoy individual sports, but unlike team sports they lack the camaraderie and enthusiastic energy exuded by teammates prior to competition which helps me ‘amp up’ or focus on the game.
Q: Can you describe what a typical training workout for you is?
A: My actual workouts are not typical anymore. I’ve become bored with just lifting weights, which I’ve been doing since I was 16. So my strength training methods vary, such as using kettle bells, along with the incorporation of biking, swimming, walking and yoga. I enjoy different methods of training. The actual on-the-boat training is cognitively intense, sensory driven and physically demanding.
Q: What are you doing to change public attitude towards people with disabilities?
A: I hope I change public attitudes and I hope that I help deconstruct misconceptions of individuals with physical impairments. I do this by living an active life, competing at an international level, pursuing my professional objectives and most importantly interacting with people on a personal level so that they recognize that my physical impairment isn’t the only attribute of the person with whom they are interacting. Many people procrastinate, but it seems that physically disabled individuals recognize the limited nature of our time. I think disabled people, especially those who have become disabled as a result of a traumatic accident, understand, recognize and appreciate the value of time more than the average able-bodied person. After my accident, I saw the world and myself with new eyes, and I knew that there was so much I wanted to discover during my second chance at living my best life.
Q: Who have been your strongest influences throughout your career?
A: My parents, of course; also my friends, and at time, strangers have said words that resonated and influenced me throughout my life. Occasionally, words are said to you that you need to hear, and that you didn’t realize you needed to hear until they are said.
Q: Do you have any advice for disabled individuals who want to get involved in sports?
A: First, exercise regularly and eat healthy foods that will facilitate your maximum performance. Secondly, peruse the Paralympic Sports and DSUSA website to check whether your sport of interest is a Paralympic sport. If so, contact the national governing body for that sport and ask whether there are organizations in your local area that offer your particular sport of interest. If a particular sport is not included in the Paralympics, continue searching online for links that will lead you to that sport.
A: First, set personal goals. If there’s something you want to do, DO IT NOW. Don’t let complacency be your cancer. We’re all motivated by different people and things at various times, so a tip to stay motivated: This is most important during the tumultuous moments, simply BREATHE and focus on the necessary actions to achieve your objective. And to state the obvious, know yourself.
Q: How are you helping others with disabilities become engaged in sports within their communities?
A: I typically connect with everyone I meet on a personal level by sharing my life experiences, whether that’s at a speaking engagement for The Hartford, a casual interaction while walking through an airport, at a restaurant, a park or competing. I let the amputee see me, and I impress upon them that their ability to lead an active and fulfilling life won’t stop with the loss of their limb. The success of an amputee, or any physically disabled person, depends entirely on that person’s mental attitude. Positivity is key! It’s your attitude or state of mind that limits you, or it reveals your limitless abilities.