U.S. Army World Class Athlete Program Paralympic sprinter hopeful Sgt. Jerrod
Fields works out at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista, Calif.
||CHULA VISTA, Calif. (July 22,2009 - ARNEWS) -- Sgt. Jerrod Fields capped his
track and field season by winning a gold medal at the 2009 Endeavor Games and
setting his sights on the 2012 Paralympics.
Fields, a below-the-knee amputee sprinter in the U.S. Army World Class Athlete
Program, won the 100 meters with a time of 12.15 seconds June 13 in Edmond,
Okla., site of the Endeavor Games for athletes with physical disabilities.
Earlier this spring, he finished second against an able-bodied field of
collegiate sprinters with a 12.0 clocking in the 100 meters at the Occidental
Invitational in Los Angeles, Calif.
Fields' coach, Al Joyner, believes his sprinter will flirt with world records on
the road to London for the 2012 Parlympics.
"I think he's a potential world record-holder," Joyner said in early February.
"I would put my money on him in both the 100 and 200."
There's little reason to doubt Joyner, an Olympic gold medalist and Jim Thorpe
Award winner who helped his late wife, Florence Griffith-Joyner, and sister,
Jackie Joyner-Kersee, sprint and jump for Olympic gold during their illustrious
Joyner, Team USA's sprint and high-jump
performance coach, began working with Fields
last November at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Chula
"In terms of track and field, he's just a
baby," Joyner said. "He's just now starting to learn
techniques. He may be that one athlete that ends up changing
the barrier as far as how people look at things."
Joyner became the first American in 80 years to win an Olympic gold medal in the
triple jump at the 1984 Los Angeles Games. He and Jackie were the first
brother-sister duo to strike Olympic gold in the same event. And he coached 100
and 200-meter women's world record-holder Flo-Jo to five Olympic medals.
"In my family, we have a total of 12 Olympic medals," Joyner said. "And I have
been coaching for the past 27 years."
Among Joyner's current crop of athletes, Fields received a special nod of
"If I had to pick a most-improved athlete, he would get the award," Joyner said.
"He's getting better and better by the second, so it's going to be really great
to see over these next three or four years as we get ready for London. He's
going to surprise a lot of people. He really has improved in leaps and bounds
with his mechanics. If somebody came out and watched him run from afar, they
could not see that he had a prosthetic leg. But if you saw him the year before,
he was falling all over the place. It's really like night and day."
Fields is chasing the world marks of 11.3 seconds for 100 meters and 22.48 for
"I'm almost there," he said. "This is my second season and my first real year of
training. Everybody else that I'm competing against either was born without a
femur or foot or something. I'm just coming on brand new. I'll catch them by
London Games. I'll be ready."
Fields, 27, who played football, basketball and baseball for Carver High School
in Chicago, encountered an improvised explosive device in Baghdad, Iraq, in
March of 2005.
"I was out on a routine reconnaissance with my platoon and we got a tip that
there were explosives inside of a dog," he said. "At that time, they were
cutting dogs and cattle open and placing explosives in them. We got the call for
the mission to go out and to handle the situation. We saw the dog and kept our
distance to see what the situation was. We didn't want to get too close to it,
but it turned out that was a decoy.
"We got the call to return home. I was the trail vehicle in the convoy. As we
turned around, I became the lead vehicle, and that's when an IED went off
underneath it. The first IED took the floor plate of my Bradley out. The second
one got me in the leg. It took from the calf muscle all the way down to the heel
of my foot - the Achilles tendon and muscles. I was able to continue the
mission. I didn't feel it really at first. I just felt a lot of fire.
"To be honest, when I first looked down to see what happened, I laughed, because
I thought I had dropped a grenade. I was thinking to myself: 'Man, these guys
are never going to believe what I've done.' I finally heard over the net that it
was an IED and that I had been hit. When I looked at my leg, I saw that it was
Fields returned to the States and reported to Walter Reed Army Medical Center in
Washington, D.C. on March 1. After six rounds of surgery and six days of
considering his most difficult decision, Fields requested amputation below his
"It would have taken 22 surgeries, and they were going to fuse my ankle," he
said. "I would not have been able to play basketball anymore."
Fields resumed walking April 2. By mid-June, he was playing basketball in a
Chicago, Ill., summer league.
"I never got down or angry about this injury," said Fields, who since has graced
the cover of ESPN The Magazine for his "streetball" prowess. "I just felt that
it was a new step or direction that I had to go in. I try to go back (to Walter
Reed) as often as I can to mentor some of the others."
Fields said he never considered leaving the military, as long as it would have
"I saw more support by staying in the Army," said Fields, who suffered the
injury at age 22. "That's when President Bush signed a bill for us to stay on
active duty pending a PT test to see that we were fit for duty and could return.
That was my intention. Then this program came along."
Fields received a call from John Register, a former member of WCAP and a
Paralympian in both swimming and track and field who now serves as director of
community and military programs for U.S. Paralympics.
"He told me the Army had something for me if I wanted to continue active duty
and also become an athlete," Fields recalled. "He faxed me all the paperwork. I
got in contact with WCAP, they looked into it, and we went from there. Now, I
think I can retire from active duty and come back as a coach to work with some
younger Soldier-athletes coming up.
"I was a career Soldier the day I signed up."
Fields suggests that wounded warriors get active as soon as physically possible.
"I would say to get out here and face those fears, if any, and have fun," he
said. "This beats sitting in a house and being depressed, or being off your leg
or your arm, or thinking how people might view you because of your disability.
Just get out and have fun."
Fields said he is still learning to run on the prosthetic.
"When next season rolls around, I'm going to be ready to roll," he said. "I am
more focused and I'm finally able to put my workouts together - transferring the
benefits from the weight room to the track. I just feel more confident in what
I'm doing. The prosthetic is starting to be a part of me. I'm still learning how
to get full usage of it, and it's showing on the track."
And on the field, where Fields recently began dabbling with the long jump.
"I'm going to let the event find him," Joyner said. "He's going to run the 400
to keep his strength. Getting ready for the Olympics, it's mental, so I'm going
to attack his body to let him know that he can do anything he wants as long as
he puts his mind to it. I look at him as a dedicated athlete, and he just keeps
raising the bar. My job is to get him competing against himself."