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Brandon Paralympian ready for London, Pistorius

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Published:   |   Updated: March 19, 2013 at 12:14 AM
TAMPA -

David Prince lost part of leg in a 2002 motorcycle crash, but he gained a motivation that turned his life around.

After the crash, he dedicated himself to athletics with an obsession that will culminate in the days ahead with a trip to London for the Paralympics Games.

Waiting for him is a possible matchup with South Africa's Oscar Pistorius, who made headlines this month as the first disabled athlete to compete in an Olympics.

"I am not nervous. I'm really looking forward to it," said Prince, 28, who lives in Brandon after growing up in the Atlanta area. "I've done very good preparation."

Prince, a member of the U.S. Paralympics team, is the 2011 U.S. champion at 400 meters, the event he'll run in London. He is also a defending champion at 100 and 200 meters, but a knee injury forced him to focus on one event.

He leaves soon for Great Britain, where events will take place Aug. 29 to Sept. 9 in the same venues as the Summer Olympics.

It's a long way from where Prince was a decade ago. Prince had bought a motorcycle and five days later was racing another rider when he crashed into a guardrail. He lost his right leg below the knee and suffered a traumatic brain injury.

But he said that life-changing event turned him from a high school dropout drug dealer to an aspiring athlete.

"I made a deal with God. I'm going to do, I'm going to change," Prince said.

Prince wears a sprinter's prosthesis made of carbon fiber. It has a suction socket that holds the limb with a valve and is sealed with a sleeve Prince wears on his thigh.

Prince is still recovering from torn anterior and posterior cruciate ligaments in his knee, which he hurt while playing on a trampoline with his 6-year-old.

"I tend to forget that I'm an amputee," Prince said. "I tend to forget that I do have some limitations, and jumping on a trampoline is now obviously one of those limitations."

The challenge for Prince is even tougher because Pistorius is a bilateral amputee, with two prosthetic legs that give him better balance. Pistorius is the defending Paralympics champion at 100, 200 and 400 meters.

Pistorius, known as "Blade Runner," competed in the 400 meters this month in London Olympics and was part of South Africa's 4x400 relay, which reached the final after the disqualification of another team.

"Confidence as far as winning is concerned really depends on your competition. My competition right now is, of course, one of the best Paralympians in history, Oscar Pistorius," Prince said.

So, Prince's goal is to run even faster than his best time of 51 seconds, and to help he has been working out at the IMG Academy in Bradenton.

"In order for me to be competitive with bilateral amputees, I have to run 45s and 46s," Prince said.

The world record is 50.98 in the single-amputee class, and Prince has been running in the 51- and 52-second range.

He gets help from his prosthetic specialist Don Smith at the Hanger Clinic in Brandon, where he gets some tweaks to his prosthetic running blade.

"He just will not quit. He came in after his accident and he was ready, and he didn't even think twice about any problems that could occur," Smith said. "Let's just do it right and see what we get, so it's awesome."

"It's inspiring" for other disabled athletes, Smith said.

"They're sitting in the lobby, and they see him come out bouncing around, and they want to ask him all these questions," Smith said. "They want to do it themselves eventually."

Prince has a good outlook.

"I don't consider myself disabled. I consider myself more enabled than I was before because I have the opportunity to explore my human potential," Prince said.


News Channel 8 reporter Jennifer Leigh contributed to this report.

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