Catching Up With U.S. Paralympic Sprinter Jerome Singleton Ahead Of London Competition
U.S. Paralympian JEROME SINGLETON was a “dark horse” during the ’08 Beijing Games, where he took a Silver Medal in the 100-meters. But after unseating South Africa’s OSCAR PISTORIOUS in the 100 meters at the Int'l Paralympic Committee Athletics World Championships last November for the title of world's fastest Paralympian, his name became more recognizable and he began to garner the attention of larger national companies. Americans might recognize him as one of the few Paralympians to be featured in BP’s national ad campaign during the London Games. Singleton has also inked deals with Gillette, Nike, Samsung, orthopedic company Ossur, U.S. Paralympics and Topps. Singleton is now in London for the Paralympic Games, with his first race on Saturday. He will compete in the 100 meters, 200 meters and 4x100 relay for Team USA.
Q: Pistorious made history just a few weeks ago, becoming the first Paralympian to compete against able-bodied athletes during the London Games. How do you feel about the accomplishment?
Singleton: I always have this desire that you should always push for inclusion instead of exclusion. … I think this idea of him (Oscar) going out there and going to the Olympics and really pushing for inclusion and blurring the lines of what people term a disability is really important. On top of that, it’s bringing more publicity to the Paralympics.
Q: As a Paralympian, what is your take on the role of and advances in technology? Does it offer any advantages or disadvantages in competition?
Singleton: I think the Paralympics is a mix between NASCAR and athletics. If you have the best athlete and put them on a bicycle in a car race, they’re going to go nowhere fast. But you could also have the best car -- or best piece of equipment -- but if the athlete doesn’t know how to use it, then they’re never going to make it happen either. So when it comes to technology in our sport, it’s necessary. We have to have it in order to take it to that next level. Is it possible that the technology could exceed the able-body athletes? I think there is always a chance; technology can always improve. But at this time, from what the tests have shown -- and I haven’t done extensive research -- they (IAAF and CAS) said it was fair. And if they said it was fair, I’ll go with them.
Q: Large national sponsorship deals are tough to get for Olympians, and those types of deals are even harder to land for Paralympians. What difference has it made for your training?
Singleton: I didn’t have any major sponsorships until the end of 2011. When I became the world champion (in Nov.) my only sponsors at the time were U.S. Paralympics and Ossur. I was blessed to become the world champion, I was in school the whole time. I actually had to make the decision to move back home after I finished college to pursue this dream of being a Paralympian and that is an issue a lot of Paralympians have. You have to make a decision after you get out of college if you want to pursue this dream in order to become one of the best in the world -- and there’s a chance that I may be in the top three and not be compensated and not be able to take care of myself -- or do I want to go ahead and work. But since my family was there for me, I was able to pursue this dream and be able to get sponsored by these companies. … It’s helped out a lot. It lets me know that when you have medical costs, you can take care of those. When you need to pay coaches, you can do that. And anything that’s associated with training, like when you fly around the country trying to find races, you don’t have to worry about it. So it’s an issue that Paralympians have because companies didn’t start to recognize until this year the value of having a Paralympic athlete on their team.
Q: What are your feelings on legislation being introduced in Congress seeking a tax break for Olympic athletes’ medal earnings?
Singleton: That would be phenomenal. Honestly, I think that would be great because especially knowing that in the Paralympics, our Gold is actually $5,000 (compared to the USOC’s $25,000 reward for a Gold Medal). It makes it tough because you think about that over four years, to go and train in order to be the best in the world, and actually achieve that goal, you get $5,000. That’s like $1,250 per year. That’s really minuscule. But we’re doing it for the love of the sport.
Q: Do you have any sponsor appearances on the horizon?
Singleton: I’m sponsored by Gillette and I’m going to do an appearance for them (today) and I’ll do two appearances for BP at the end of the Games. For Gillette, they are doing the “Thank You Mom” program where they are giving the moms of Paralympians and Olympians gift cards in order to offset some of the costs to come over to the Games. So I’m going to go as one of the P&G ambassadors for Gillette and let the moms know what they have done and to thank them for coming out and supporting the athletes. This is actually the first time that I have been doing any type of appearances. In Beijing, I was a dark horse and no one really knew about me.
Q: Besides competition, what’s on the agenda during your time in London?
Singleton: I’m going to stay here an extra week. I finish up racing on the sixth, but I’m actually going to stay here until the 17th. One of my friends, he’s from London and he’s going to take me around with him and his family. I’m just willing to see whatever they have to see. I’ve come before and I actually got to go on the London Eye and that was a great experience. I want to catch a soccer match. I played soccer when I was very young, and I want to see if it’s really as exciting as everyone makes it out to seem. ... I heard there’s a very old golf course out here. I’m not able to golf that well, but I heard it’s the oldest golf course in London and I want to hopefully play out there.