Roderick Townsend-Roberts earned two gold medals in his Paralympics debut last week in Rio de Janeiro.
The Lincoln High, San Joaquin Delta College and Boise State graduate earned gold in the men’s T47 long jump and men’s T47 high jump and set Paralympics records in both events with marks of 7.41 and 2.09 meters, respectively. Townsend, 24, sustained permanent nerve damage to his right shoulder, neck and arm at birth and last year was classified as a Paralympic athlete after competing against able-bodied athletes in football and track and field his entire life.
On Tuesday, the 6-foot-7, 210-pound Townsend-Roberts reflected on his accomplishments from his home in Flagstaff, Arizona, where he coaches jumps at Northern Arizona. (Edited for space.)
Question: How do you transport two gold medals from Rio de Janeiro to Flagstaff, Arizona?
Answer: My backpack. You just put the backpack on the little machine, the X-ray thing.
Q: Where are they now?
A: They’re sitting on top of my fridge. I have to show them off to all of the staff and faculty. Everyone wants to see them. I haven’t really put them away yet because I know that I’m going to have to keep pulling them out because everyone wants to see them right now.
Q: What reaction have you received from your athletes?
A: They think it’s cool. They sprayed me down with a bunch of silly string (on Monday) at the first day of practice, which was funny. They’re all excited for me, and they’re just ready to start training now, so I’m just as excited as they are in that sense as well.
Q: How do you feel?
A: I feel great. It’s a huge weight off my shoulders. The season’s over but just getting into next season now. London in 2017 (world championships) is the goal, and I just really want to keep the momentum rolling. There’s a lot of people I want to reach out to and having won two medals in Rio de Janeiro, I realize there’s a huge market for me as far as being able to speak to people and being able to reach out to other people who wouldn’t have been able to listen to me otherwise.
Q: What message do you want to impart?
A: Where you are doesn’t really matter when you really know where you want to be. That’s really one of the things I’ve been focusing on: Where I am right now for myself is great, but it’s nowhere near where I want to be. A lot of times in life you find yourself wanting to do something but you feel like you’re not in a position to make it happen and it’s a matter of throwing that aside and realizing where I want to be is more important than whatever is going on right now.
Q: Who has been most responsible for helping you get where you want to be?
A: My coach, Jeff Petersmeyer, has been really great, as well as my girlfriend, Tynita Butts, and training partner, Deante Kemper, who competed at the Olympic trials — they are really my support group. Us practicing together has been a huge help for me, as far as having other people out there, and having other personalities out there to keep me motivated and keep me moving. It’s really helpful because they’ve been out there with me every day because they know what I’ve put in, and it’s nice to have people who do know what goes on behind the scenes.
Q: How has your family in Stockton reacted?
A: I’ve received open arms and just tears of joy and everything you could possibly think of. Everybody’s really excited for me and I really try to look at all of Stockton as my family. Everybody who does know about me has done a wonderful job at sharing my accomplishments. There are people that realize that Stockton has some good in it, and they are quick to share the good that is in Stockton. And I’m just fortunate enough to be a part of that, and I’m happy and humbled to see that they realize that they thought that what I was doing was worthy enough for everybody to know about.
— Contact Sports Editor Bob Highfill at (209) 546-8282 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him at recordnet.com/sportsblog and on Twitter @bobhighfill.