| "Don't Let Life Pin You Down" |
An Excerpt from Finish Strong
By Dan Green
Kyle Maynard is a regular guy with a love to compete. He knows that to truly live you must set your sights on a goal and never give up. The fire that burns in his belly helped propel him to contend for the Georgia state high school wrestling championship in 2004. Not such a big deal you might say – except for the remarkable fact that Kyle has no arms or legs. He was born a congenital amputee – his arms ending at his elbows, his legs at his knees.
The first time I saw Kyle on an ESPN special (he won an ESPY award for the Best Athlete with a Disability in 2004) I was immediately struck by how normal he seemed. During the special, they showed Kyle doing all of the things that any other person or athlete would do.
He spoke with passion and conviction and he never left me with the impression that the world owed him anything. I was amazed to see him training hard, lifting weights – he has cannon balls for shoulders. Using a specially designed attachment, he was pushing more than double his own body weight. I was instantly inspired to learn more about this amazing person.
From the beginning, Kyle's parents, Anita and Scott, were determined to raise a normal child. They insisted that he learned to feed himself and play with the other kids like any other child would do,
When Kyle saw other kids picking up crayons with their fingers, he learned to pick them up by using the crease in his short, but sensitive biceps.
His grandmother Betty was a source of inspiration and would often take him to the grocery store where she would instill a sense of confidence by encouraging Kyle to sit up and look folks in the eye and smile. He was fitted with prosthetic devices at a young age, but quickly dismissed them because they were too restrictive. He wanted to be free to run and play just like the other kids and those devices kept him from doing so.
Kyle led an active childhood. He played street hockey with his friends (he was the goalie) and in sixth grade was able to make the football team. Kyle hung tough on the football team, but his physical differences put him at a disadvantage against other players. Eventually, his father encouraged him to try another sport that would put Kyle on an even plane with his competition – wrestling.
Kyle started wrestling in sixth grade. He lost his first 35 matches in a row. During this period of time, Kyle had to dig deep to find the confidence to continue. Kyle however, was a warrior and he didn't like to lose. With the support of his father, a former wrestler, he learned to train with weights, became very strong and learned some moves unique to his strengths. Kyle overcame the self-doubt he felt during his early wrestling days and became a winner. In his senior year, Kyle won 35 times on the varsity squad and qualified for the state championship. In the state tournament, Kyle won his first three matches and had to face his final opponent with a broken nose. Although Kyle did not win the state championship, he gained a level of self-confidence and became a source of inspiration for everyone that he met.
Kyle graduated high school and attends the University of Georgia, where he continues to wrestle and inspire others. As a member of the Washington Speaker's Bureau, Kyle is regularly asked to give motivational talks. But what he has to say has little to do with his perceived physical differences. Rather, he talks of overcoming fear and doubt and what it takes to compete and win – just as any other champion would do. To this day, Kyle has never been pinned by an opponent. What a fitting metaphor for his life.