The Daily Illini

Gold medalist, Illini athlete nominated for ESPY award

Raymond Martin, a member of the men’s track and field at the University, is not your average 19-year-old.

No, not because he was born with Arthrogryposis or Freeman Sheldon Syndrome that has left him as a quadriplegic, but because he has already won four Paralympic gold medals while also being nominated for two ESPYs all before his 20th birthday. His latest nomination has put him in contention for this year’s ESPY award for the Best Male Athlete with a Disability. 

Martin’s second consecutive ESPY nomination is not lost on him despite the many accolades he has already received in his career.

“It means a great deal to me,” Martin said. “It’s such a high honor to be considered as one of the best male athletes with a disability. It would mean the world to me to win this award. To win any other year would be wonderful, but to win on the year of the games would just be unbelievable.”

The other nominees for the Best Male Athlete with a Disability at the 2013 ESPYs include archer Jeff Fabry and skier Tyler Walker. Martin’s biggest threats to take home the award are swimmer Lt. Bradley Snyder and discus-thrower Jeremy Campbell.

“The whole field is full of remarkable athletes,” Martin said. “But if I were pressed to name my biggest competition, it would either be Jeremy Campbell or Bradley Snyder.”

Campbell, a teammate of Martin’s on the U.S. Paralympic Track and Field squad, won a gold medal in discus at the 2012 Games. Snyder, who served as a lieutenant in the U.S. Navy, won two gold medals at the 2012 Paralympics including a 400-meter freestyle victory that took place exactly a year after an explosion in Afghanistan caused him to go blind.

Martin boasts an impressive resume of his own despite the stiff competition he faces this year.

The University sophomore won four gold medals in London while breaking a world record, two Paralympic records and four American records. His accomplishments at the Games earned him the U.S. Olympic Committee Sportsman of the Year.

“I’m proud of my performance last year,” Martin said. “I will never forget the way I felt on the podium in London. A crowd of 80,000 watching and listening live to my national anthem play, with billions around the world watching via other mediums. The different factor that must be accounted for with the ESPY is that you’re not just compared to others in your sport and classification; you’re compared to other magnificent athletes across all sports.”

Martin enjoyed himself at the 2012 ESPYs despite not winning in his category.

“The ESPYs is one of the most memorable experiences I’ve had that relates to my sport career,” Martins said. “I was getting ready for the London Games when I attended the ESPYs in 2012, and the awards show was a great way to relax after our trials meet and take my mind off of training. The whole atmosphere of the ESPYS was just amazing. Everyone in L.A. treated me like all of the able-bodied athletes. It was an incredible thing to experience, especially since Paralympic sport is not given the attention it deserves in the United States.”

Although Martin was star struck when he met Tim Tebow at last year’s ESPYs, he was disappointed most of the NBA players weren’t able to attend because they were training for the Olympics. Martin, a New York Knicks fan, is looking forward to meeting Carmelo Anthony at this year’s ESPYs. 

In addition to Martin, Tatyana McFadden will also represent the University at the ESPYs as she’s up for the Best Female Athlete with a Disability award for the third year in a row.

“The women’s category this year is arguably tougher than the male category,” Martin said. “You have Jessica Long, who has won the award twice before, in the running. That being said, Tatyana had a phenomenal season last year. On top of winning four medals at the games, she won the Boston marathon hours before the explosions went off and turned around and won the London marathon six days later, on her birthday nonetheless. Tatyana deserves to win. It is long overdue.”

Martin, who has been training in Champaign all summer, will compete in Lyon, France, at the IPC Athletics World Championships from July 19-28, only two days after the ESPYs.

“Hopefully, I can have as much success in France as I did London.”

Michael can be reached at [email protected]

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