MADEIRA, Ohio — They are the circles that give him life. On his wheelchair, Jamie Stanford is something he wasn’t sure he’d ever be: an athlete.
“Seven years ago I didn't know what my life was; I didn't know what I was doing,” Stanford said. “Sports (are) my life now."
The wheel spokes go in every direction. Stanford's life could have turned out so many different ways, too. Born in China with spina bifida, a condition that affects the spinal cord, he was placed in an orphanage at two months old.
“His spinal cord was still outside his body at that point. Nothing had been done,” his mother, Shay Stanford said from her office in New Zealand. “In China, kids like that, they die."
He was five when his parents adopted him.
"(My birth parents) knew by giving me away to someone else, there'd be a chance of me surviving," Stanford said.
The Madeira sophomore now thrives as a three-sport athlete. In addition to track, he plays basketball and tennis.
"I can't jump; I can't run; I can’t really sprint. I can walk a couple hundred feet, and that's about it."
But he can ball. Basketball is his first love. It's the sport that first got his blood pumping. He's played with the Cincinnati Dragons, a competitive traveling wheelchair team for disabled youth for the last seven years.
Jamie took up track to help cross-train for basketball.
"I'm already fast in basketball," Stanford said. "Track is perfect for me."
Josh Dooley runs the track program at Madeira. Working with Stanford brought new energy to him and the team, especially after last season was canceled.
"If you're athletic, there's an event in track for you, for anybody,” Dooley said. “If you can run jump, throw, whatever you want to do, track is for you. And so since he's an athlete, he's just like anyone else. So let's see if we can get him out on the track."
Dooley says joining track has helped Jamie’s shyness and his grades.
Jamie competes in the 100, 400 and 800, and often against able-bodied kids. He doesn't just compete, mind you; he beats them.
He wasn’t sure what to expect in his first track competition back at the Coaches Classic in April at Reading.
“I always get scared when I try something new,” Stanford said. “I was kinda shaking. I thought they were going to wreck me, all of them, every single one of them. Turns out, I beat some of them."
He's beating the odds, too.
"He knows there's a fight in there, and that’s what he draws on, I think,” Shay Stanford said. “From his orphanage experience, there's nothing he felt he couldn't overcome."
Jamie got his driver’s license this year and often drives one of friends who’s also disabled to games.
He's just your normal, 3-sport athlete, whose life has come full circle because of sports.
"Nowadays, normal to me is being around my teammates in a chair," Stanford said. "People walking around isn't normal to me anymore.”