Tokyo Paralympics: Javelin thrower Mike Gallardo is US Army alum who lost right leg in Iraq war
Paralympic athlete Mike Gallardo's life growing up was beyond difficult. Raised by a single mother, who died when Gallardo was a child, his story is one of immense ups and downs. He achieved incredible feats after he enlisted in the US Army. But the enlistment ultimately also resulted in what many would call a devastating blow. A grave injury to his Achilles tendon in the Iraq war changed his life. But Gallardo hardly let the injury limit his abilities. After he underwent an amputation, Gallardo went on to be an Emmy-winning MLB Tonight crew member and is now participating in the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics Javelin competition in the F64 category.
With the Tokyo Paralympics set to begin any moment now, the inspiring stories of the differently-abled athletes are finally in the spotlight. Shot putter Jeremy Campbell, whose right leg was amputated when he was one year old, is confident about taking on able-bodied athletes. Fitness innovator Josh Cinnamo who has an amputated arm, became an Olympian in his 40s. Tatyana McFadden's story of how she went from being an abandoned orphan to the best wheelchair racer of our times has left people awed too. And then comes Gallardo, who under his aunt's parenting, went on to become an Army alum first, and then a Paralympian.
Mike Gallardo was born to a single mother in Los Angeles. His difficult childhood was marred by the tragedy of witnessing his mother, Debbie, die from cancer when he was just 10. His aunt then took him in and according to the Team USA website, he went on to turn down a "college baseball scholarship to enlist in the US Army after the September 11th terrorist attacks..."
Gallardo's birthday being on September 11 led him to believe he was meant to do something bigger than just professional baseball. So he enlisted in the US Army and went on to be assigned a tour in Iraq in January 2007. That's when Gallardo suffered a serious injury to his right leg at the Achilles tendon. The injury was from two IEDs simultaneously detonated beneath his truck. The process of trying to salvage his limb went on for nine months and ultimately ended up being unsuccessful. So Gallardo decided to amputate his leg below the knees so he could lead a more active life.
When Gallardo returned home to Texas, he received the Purple Heart for his service. The website adds, "After retiring from the Army, he completed the renowned Kona IRONMAN in 15 hours and 36 minutes nine months after his amputation... In 2016, Gallardo applied to a graphic design internship with the MLB Network Veterans Apprenticeship Program where within a year, he had won a Best Visual Emmy for his work on the intro MLB Tonight... He continues to stay involved in sports, including softball, Crossfit and track and field."
Speaking about his freelance gig, Gallardo said: "I got an email saying, 'Does anyone have an interest in graphics design and working with Major League Baseball?' I always had an interest in computers, but I knew nothing about them. I said, 'Let me shoot them an email just to see what happens'. It's never depressing or unsatisfying. You never have to wake up and say, 'Man, do I have to go to work?' You wake up, and you're so excited to go to work today." His other accomplishments include winning a gold in the 2019 Bydgoszcz Grand Prix and the 2019 Arizona Grand Prix, silver - both in the javelin category.