Hunter Martin, a rising junior at Portal Middle High School brought home the gold in Blaze Sports America‘s national competition for adapted track and field. He doesn’t allow his physical challenges to keep him from being the best in the world.

Blaze Sports America is a legacy organization of the 1996 Paralympics held in Atlanta. They hold nationwide competitions for athletes with disabilities in a variety of sports like basketball, tennis or swimming.

The July competition was held in Denver, Colorado. In Denver, Martin won the 100 meter, and won gold for his overall class. Classes are distinguished by athletes’ disabilities or sport.

Paralyzed on Fifth Birthday

According to Hunter’s mother, Anna Martin, he was paralyzed on his fifth birthday because of an autoimmune disease called transverse myelitis.

“He went to bed, fine, walking around and the next morning he couldn’t get up,” said Anna Martin. “He was paralyzed from the neck down.”

Not to be defined by his paralysis he first started playing basketball and now plays with the Atlanta Hawks wheelchair basketball team practicing in Atlanta every Sunday.

Hunter Martin plays wheelchair basketball with the Atlanta Hawks. Photo courtesy of Anna Martin.

Friends, Neighbors and Community donate new competition wheelchair

When Martin got invited to nationals, he and his coach Tendai Haggins started scrambling to raise money to get him a new wheelchair.

“We were looking to sell hamburgers and hotdogs… whatever we could sell to try to have a fundraiser, but [the community] said you don’t need that, we’ve got it taken care of,” said Haggins

Martin received a brand new track wheelchair paid for from just donations of neighbors and friends in the community, and just four days before Nationals, Martin ditched his old loaner chair from Blaze Sports.

Martin shows off new competition wheelchair

“Going from a chair that’s 25 years old to a chair that’s just a few weeks old, that makes a big difference,” said Martin. “I got it thanks to the community in Bulloch County who raised the money for me to get the chair, because those chairs are not cheap.”

According to Haggins, his new chair cost around $5000.

 “There was a lot of learning curves in the new chair,” said Martin. “What I’ve got now is a kneeling chair which is a completely different ballgame.”

Flying and Elevation Challenges

“On the way up there, I panicked at half the flight,” said Martin. “The competition wasn’t bothering me. It was flying that bothered me.”

Martin found that the higher elevation made it harder to breathe and had to fly in a few days early with his grandmother to get used to the thinner air.

“Denver definitely got the best of me, due to elevation,” said Martin. “It was really rough on a lot of the athletes there.”

Martin is the only member of his school’s adapted track and field team, which is the only program in our region.

“When he goes out and competes here, he’s competing against the clock, against himself,” said Haggins. “It was just so great for him to get a chance to go off to state because of his times and actually have someone to race against.”

His current records are:

  • 100-meter dash: 28 seconds
  • 200: 50 seconds
  • 400: 1:47
  • 800: 3:50

Inspires coach and teammates

Haggins said that Hunter Martin is an inspiration to him and the other kids on the track team.

“They see him compete, not complaining,” said Haggins. “He’s just rubbed off on everyone.”

Now that the season for track and field is over, Martin has a little bit of time to relax before he enters a new sports season.

“I might get a month and a half of winding down time before basketball season starts,” said Martin.