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Ellen Helps Inspiring Athlete’s Paralympics Dreams

Ellen Helps Inspiring Athlete’s Paralympics Dreams


Our next guest is an
incredible athlete who’s inspiring people around
the world through his TiKToK. The video of him
telling his life story has been viewed 5 and
1/2 million times. Take a look. I swear everyone
of my comments is saying my legs got
bit off by a shark or I got hit by 17 buses
so here’s my actual story. So when I was born
I had a birth defect and it made doctors tell my
parents that I would never be able to walk. But when I was a
year old, someone suggested that I got
my legs amputated. So then I cut both
my legs off and soon after I got my first
pair of prosthetics. After that I started
running and playing sports and doing all sorts of
things that I was never supposed to do. In fifth grade I
went to public school and I went through
a lot of bullying. It was super hard for
me but I made it out. And in junior high, I
joined the track team because I had a few friends
and they were running track and it’s somewhere where
I felt comfortable. I got a little bit
better each year and even ended up being able
to compete all around the world running track. By my senior year I was one of
the fastest kids in the nation but no colleges
wanted to recruit me because there had never
been a double amputee competing in the NCAA. Finally the University of
Arkansas took a chance on me and signed me on scholarship. I’ve been running here
the last two years. Every day has been a blessing. It’s a blessing that I’m
even here and able to walk. So y’all go chase your dreams. Don’t listen to what
other people tell you. [AUDIENCE CHEERING] From [INAUDIBLE]. Please welcome Hunter Woodhall. Hi. I don’t know what it is. You’re a great hugger. Great hugs. They’re awesome. I’ll hug you more if you’d like. You’re– Not complaining. You’re amazing. So in that video you tell
the story really fast. It’s great that you explain it
to everybody really quickly. So you lost your legs early on
but you always were athletic. You were always running
around doing things. Right? Yeah absolutely. You know I grew up
with two older brothers and I credit a lot of that to
them and just how I was raised and I loved sports. And I didn’t actually
start running track until seventh grade. And I didn’t run it, like I said
in the video, to be an athlete. I just ran it because I
felt comfortable there. And I was always in
the back of the pack. I was never one of
the best on the team. But it’s somewhere where I
felt like I could actually be myself. And you know through
that, I remember races where I’d finish last and
people would still clap for me. And I would always wonder
why are you clapping for me? I lost. And I realized that
people were just content with me showing up. The kid without legs just
showing up, like kudos. Yeah, yeah. And I hated it because I was
like these people don’t see me as an athlete, they see me
as a kid with a disability. And that’s one of the
reasons that I really wanted to pursue athletics
and pursue track, because I wanted
people to see me as that’s Hunter the athlete. [APPLAUSE] So I agree with you. I think if people would
just embrace whatever it is. There’s no good or bad,
there’s no labeling It, it is just who you are
and how you’re born and whatever that is. And if somebody sees it as a
disability or a disadvantage, it’s like you’re wrong. This is my strength. This is what’s going to make me
special and help other people. Absolutely. So all right, so
you got– finally you went into the
Paralympics in 2016. Yep. And that must have been
an incredible feeling. It was amazing. Like I said, that was kind
of the pinnacle, the payoff, to all the hard work I’d
been put into before. And I was actually able to win
a silver and a bronze medal for my country,
which is amazing. And obviously the
gold are there, but at the end of the day,
those accolades and those medals they come and go. And in the moment it’s amazing,
but the very special moments and the things we
get to remember that stick the most are one,
being able to share those with the people I love. My family, they
were there, and I was able to share
that moment with them. And then moments
like this, and I say that genuinely, is being
here and being able to show people that it doesn’t matter. There’s nothing that separates
me from anybody watching this. It’s how much do you want it? Go get it done and you can
accomplish your dreams. Yeah, well what an
inspiration you are. And now so you finally– it
took a while for a college to actually allow you to just
run with the regular team and they finally,
you are now where? So when I finished
the Paralympics I actually came back and I was
one of the top five runners in the nation, able body, and
I wasn’t getting any calls. No one was recruiting me. And after a while we
figured out it was because there’s a gray area. No one has ever been to
NCAA with a double amputee. And the University of Arkansas,
which is where I am now, took a chance on me. And they said hey,
we believe in you, believe in what you’re doing. Let’s go for it. You know even now it’s
hard a lot of times. I go through a lot
of people saying that I have an advantage,
that running with prosthetics I’m cheating in a way. Even at my state
championship my senior year, I won the state championship. I broke the state record and
it was one of those moments. I say to my girlfriend,
Tara, all the time, these are the moments. And that was one of them. And somebody in
the stands stood up in front of my family
and my friends and said, he’s cheating. He doesn’t deserve to be here. Get him out of here. In front of everybody. Wow. And took that
moment away from me. And you know, I still get that
even in college a little bit. But the thing
people don’t realize is, I didn’t choose this. And just like anybody else,
I want to be an athlete. I want to pursue
my goals, so to try to take that away from me or
anybody else is ludicrous. I think we just need to
be inclusive and realize we’re all people. How would you be cheating? What would give you an advantage
to run with prosthetics versus someone else? I’m not a scientist
so I’m just going to preface it with that, but– I thought you were. You’re going to have to go. I’m sorry– It’s the lab coat. I think is what it is. But at the end of the day. It’s just my blades
are made in a way that mimics what a human
foot would do so when it hits the ground
it’ll bounce back off. And a lot of people will
say hey, that’s a spring. If you think about
it, in running you’re supposed to go forwards so going
up and down as a spring is not going to help that much. Right. Well, I think you’re amazing. And you have a big
following on TikTok so I thought we
would do something because– it’s a challenge. It is. All right. So you’ve been
posting these videos. Should we show the video? Oh boy, here we go. I did this for you by the way. [ELECTRONIC MUSIC] Woo! OK that seemed easy. Not as easy as you think. No, no it’s easy. So now I have one and we’re
going to do it together. OK? Is this real life? Yeah, real life. We’re going to do one
together for TikTok. Wow. Here we go. All right. OK we are rolling. [ELECTRONIC MUSIC] [AUDIENCE CHEERING] Thank you for bringing
me through that. All right– I should have come here first. One more TikTok. Do you want to– All right. Ready? I don’t need music for this. We have some friends
at Shutterfly who want to help you get to
the Paralympics this summer. So they’re going to give
you a check for $20,000. [AUDIENCE CHEERING] Can I hug you again? Thank you so much. [AUDIENCE CHEERING] We’ll be right back.

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