This past saturday, on Cerebral Palsy Awareness Day, runner Justin Gallegos made history when he received a contract with Nike. During what he believed to be a normal day of practice, Gallegos would receive the news that cemented him as the first professional athlete with cerebral palsy that Nike has ever offered a contract to. A film crew was on hand to capture what would be a powerful display of emotion from Gallegos, which can be seen in this inspiring video, as the realization of his achievement struck him.
In a Instagram post made after receiving the contract, Gallegos explains how important this event was for him. He mentions that “This was perhaps the most emotional moment in my seven years of running!” and how “growing up with a disability, the thought of becoming a professional athlete is as I have said before like the thought of climbing Mt. Everest!”, but that getting the Nike contract proves that “Hard work pays off!”
As mentioned in an article written by Running Magazine, Gallegos has worked alongside Nike in the past by helping them develop a special running shoe for those with disabilities. This shoe features a zippered heel, that allows runners to unzip or rezip their shoes in one fluid motion. Gallegos’ help with the development of “FlyEase” ensures that disabled runners will not have to worry about the challenges that might come from shoe-laces coming untied during an important race.
Gallegos has stated that his current goal is to run a half-marathon in under two hours. Sports Illustrated reports that he completed his first half-marathon this past April 2018, clocking in at 2:03:49. Just a few minutes shy of his goal. His dedication and passion for running serves as an inspiration to all those chasing their dreams.
All of us here at the American Autism Association wish Gallegos luck on the rest of his journey as a professional athlete, and are looking forward to reading more about his incredible achievements in the years to come!