By Taylor Meeks, ISU Student
For Immediate Release
Date: February 10, 2020
Military retiree, two-time TEDx speaker, and Paralympic silver medalist John Register is the 2020 keynote speaker for Breakfast with Fosbury and Friends. Each year, an Olympian is asked to share insight about the challenges and obstacles within their own unique journey to the attendees of Simplot Games.
As a child, Register had a passion for sports and began swimming competitively at a young age. He soon added baseball, football, and track and field to his repertoire.
After graduating high school, Register accepted a scholarship to the University of Arkansas, where he became a four-time track and field All-American, in the long jump, 55-meter hurdles, and twice on 4×400-meter relay teams. After earning a bachelor’s degree in communications in 1988, he enlisted in the Army.
“I wanted to continue my track and field career, so I enlisted in the United States Army because the Army has [its] World Class Athlete Program,” Register said. “This program supports athletes who want to continue on to the Olympic Games.”
While on active duty, Register continued to pursue athletic excellence. He went on to win nine gold medals in the Armed Services Competition as well as two World Military Championships. Register qualified for his first ever Olympic trials in 1988 in the 110-meter hurdles.
After being deployed in the Desert Shield and Desert Storm operations of the Gulf War, Register began training for the 400-meter hurdles, a new event for him, and qualified for the 1992 Olympic trials. He was on track to compete for a spot on the 1996 U.S. Olympic team. On May 17, 1994, however, Register suffered a life-altering injury.
While training for the 400-meter hurdles, Register didn’t land properly over a hurdle and hyper-extended his left knee. The movement resulted in a severed popliteal artery behind the kneecap. A procedure to reconstruct the artery using a vein from his right leg failed, and within days gangrene turned his muscle black.
“I was given a choice to either keep my leg and use a walker or wheelchair for the rest of my life or amputate my leg and use a prosthesis for the rest of my life,” Register said. “I chose the latter.”
Register returned to sports as a way of rehabilitation. At the Brooke Army Medical Center, he began swimming for cardiovascular fitness. In just over a year, Register qualified for and made the 1996 U.S. Paralympic swim team where he competed in the 50-meter freestyle and the 4×400-meter medley relay as the anchor.
After observing athletes with one leg running and jumping during his first Paralympics, Register decided he was going to be fitted for a running prosthesis, and he was going to compete in the 2000 track and field Paralympic Games in Sydney, Australia.
Four years after setting that goal, Register became a silver medalist in the long jump and finished fifth in the 100- and 200-meter dashes.
“We think that we’ve made it to the top and that’s it,” Register said. “What do you do after that? Giving back is the next thing, so after you accomplish whatever you want to accomplish, it’s not for you to live this free life, it’s for you to go back and create something for somebody else.”
As a member of the United States Olympic Committee (USOC), Register did just that by developing the Paralympic Military Sport program, which uses sports to assist in the recovery of wounded, ill or injured service members, serving both active duty and retired military personnel.
During his long journey to recovery, Register’s wife Alice supported him through some of the toughest moments he faced. It was through her that he gained the “new normal” mindset. Register’s breakfast speech will largely be based on this as well as the Olympic motto of Citius, Altius, Fortius (swifter, higher, stronger).
“These words aren’t written in the superlative of the word,” Register said. “They are written in the sense that we can have our best performance today and be better tomorrow. We can jump the highest today and jump higher tomorrow. We can run the fastest today and run faster tomorrow.”
Don’t miss out on more insight from John Register at the 2020 Breakfast with Fosbury and Friends on Friday, February 14 at 7 a.m., in Idaho State University’s Student Union Ballroom. To purchase tickets, call (208) 235-5604 or visit www.simplotgames.com.