Austin Pruitt figures he earned his spot in the 2012 London Parlaympics solely on raw talent.
The wheelchair racer was fifth in the 200 meters. By 18, he was a Paralympian with national titles in the 100 and 200 meters and a bronze from the 2011 World Championships.
But after the Paralympics, Pruitt knew he needed fine-tuning. So in late 2012 he moved from Washington to the Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista and made some changes.
One was to start working with coach Joaquim Cruz, the famed Brazilian 800-meter runner. The other was to develop a diet with the OTC’s nutritionists. At the time, Pruitt weighed 240 pounds.
Today, Pruitt is 191 pounds and hopes to be 180 by the Sept. 7 start of the Paralympics in Rio de Janeiro. Lighter means faster.
“I’m stronger. Everything is more targeted now,” he says. “I made London ... because I was good, but I wasn’t the best I could be. (It) was kind of a kick in the pants to get moving.”
Like the other OTC athletes, Pruitt has a nutrition plan to mesh with his training regimen. Together they help athletes go Citius, Altius, Fortius - faster, higher, stronger.
Talent, drive and thousands of hours of work will carry U.S. athletes to the Olympics and Paralympics, but the peanut butter and banana sandwiches, protein shakes, oatmeal, beets and sweet potatoes will help, too.
Pruitt, archer Mackenzie Brown, rugby player Kelly Griffin and BMX racer Alise Post, who all train at the OTC, share their nutrition and training programs that helped them get to Rio.
Wheelchair racer. Age 21. Spokane, Wash.
His story: Pruitt was born with cerebral palsy. He competes in the T-34 class for athletes with leg weakness. Pruitt is being considered to race in the 100, 200 and 800 meter races at Rio (final announcements will be made Aug. 15).
Eating to win: He focuses on cutting out sugar and making healthy choices (lean meats, veggies) and limits his calories to 2,200 per day when he’s away from the OTC. At the OTC he eats roughly the same menu every day, starting with cream of wheat for breakfast and chicken salads for lunches and dinners. He’s always had a powerful push, so by getting lighter he’s gained speed. His better diet keeps him energized. If he strays, he pays the price. “If I had licorice right now, I would go out to the track tomorrow, I could feel it,” he says. “Any excess sugar I can feel.”
Sport-specific training: Fast-twitch drills for quicker starts and repetitive sprints on the track with a weighted chair or vest.
Williams is a San Diego freelance writer.