With a Huck Finn grin atop a weight lifter’s shoulders, and sweaty curls straight out of a Mountain Dew ad, (Josh) George is equal parts oh-boy Virginian and oh-man athlete. Because he already is so good, so young — wheelchair racers typically reach their competitive peak as late as their mid-30s — George is a budding star in wheelchair racing, and easily the United States’ top Paralympic medal contender in races from 100 meters up through the marathon.
Wheelchair racing is far from a glorified soap-box derby, but rather an intricate test of athletic strength, endurance and strategy among athletes whose propulsion comes from arms atop wheels rather than legs atop sneakers. And although his sport immediately advertises physical limitations, George excels partly because some of his physical restrictions have led to some spectacular physical gifts.
“Is he the guy that can get the Coke ad? I think that he is,” said Amanda McGrory, who finished second in the London Marathon among women and is another top United States medal contender for Beijing. “If anyone can do it, he will be the one that will be able to change wheelchair racing.”