Nike recently announced it’s signing of Justin Gallegos as its first professional athlete with Cerebral Palsy. Gallegos had just finished his race when he was approached by his teammates and Nike’s director, John Douglas, who told him of his new deal. A video, released on World Cerebral Palsy Day, captured this emotional moment for the young runner:
This deal came as a surprise for Gallegos as we see in the video. He then took to Instagram to say,
“I was once a kid in leg braces who could barely put one foot in front of the other! Now I have signed a three year contract with Nike Running!”
Justin Gallegos is a junior at the University of Oregon and a member of the university’s club running team. As a child, Gallegos used a walker and did endless amounts of physical therapy in order to improve his gait. He found his love for long-distance running as a freshman in high school, where he also caught Nike’s attention. Since then, he has been helping design shoes for runners with disabilities. The FlyEase, is a shoe with zippered heels to make it easier to get on and off. This shoe is now being made across the country in men’s, women’s, and kids’ sizes.
Nike has signed many top athletes over the years; however, this case is unique. Signing Justin as a way to promote an athlete who has had to overcome many obstacles and barriers, leads to furthering Nike’s brand, “Just do it” from a different angle.
Having someone like Justin out there in the media and the sports world shows others with disabilities what is possible and attainable. Justin Gallegos continues to push the limits, saying that he would like to run the Chicago Marathon a year from now.
Over the years competitive sports for people with disabilities has grown. Through media coverage of the Paralympic Games there is an increased awareness of opportunities for sport participation for individuals with disabilities. Having professional athletes out there like Justin will help increase youth with disabilities participation in sport. One study showed that social interaction within disability sport can have a positive role in the well-being of youth with physical disabilities. Youth and children with disabilities are often not encouraged to be active, leading to a sedentary lifestyle. In general, participation in physical activity and sport has been found to positively influence health-related quality of life. Therefore, further promotion of physical activity and sport for youth with disabilities is incredibly important.
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