Dreams are great to have, passion is a necessity, but having the right goal and setting the proper foundation for those goals to become a reality is a must!
Marlon Shirley was the first T44 class athlete to break the 11-second barrier in the 100 meters (10.97). Shirley has not only found a way to prevail, but he has also found a way to become a world class elite athlete and role model to all.
Feeling strongly that he wants to give back to the community, Marlon started the "Champions In Life" program. The goal of this mentorship program is to provide mentorship opportunities for children in underprivileged situations with focus on Foster Children and displaced children. Champions in Life also provides children with the opportunity to learn various life principles important to Marlon’s success as an athlete and a person. Such principles are Team Work, Goal Setting, Persevering, Dedication, Becoming a Role Model, along with many others.
|Amputation||Below the Knee|
|Main Events||100m, 200m, 4x100, 4x400m, Long Jump|
|2008||U.S. Olympic Spirit Award
San Diego Hall of Fame Best Disabled Athlete award
Who has been the biggest supporter in your career?
"My parents, Kerry and Marlene Shirley, have been amazing thought my career. They have sacrificed so much in their lives for me, as a result, it has provided me opportunities most would’ve not had. Secondly, Össur who has been there through it all. This year will be the 11th year that I have had the opportunity to work them. Their sponsorship of me has provided me the opportunity to train at a level that’s allowed us to will gold medals in the 100m and own world records in the Long Jump, High Jump, 200M and 100m over my career. "
Who first got you interested in your sport and who influenced you to take up a competitive sport?
"My influence came from Brian Hoddle. At the time, he was working with an athlete named Tony Volpentest. He went to a track meet in Pocatello Idaho where I had, last minute, decided to compete at. At that event I did the high jump. I ended up jumping 6’6, he then walked up to me and asked me if I has heard of the Paralympics which I had not, he then said, “Well you just broke the World Record by 6 inches” he asked me to come to Chula Vista, CA and compete at the Flex-Foot Invitational where I went on to become the High Jump world record holder. Soon after I decided to train for the 100m and in Sydney 2000 I won the gold and set a new world record of 11.09. I had not lost that race in an IPC sanctioned event until the 2008 Paralympics where I ruptured my Achilles."
What has been your best career highlight so far?
"It feels great that is a question I have to think about given I have been fortunate to have a few to reflect on. I feel the main highlight for me was winning Sydney. At the time Tony and Brian were the main focal point during those games. To come out and not just win, but set a world record really helped push my career as an athlete and it opened up so many opportunities. "
Who has been your toughest opponent and why?
"My toughest opponent has been Brian Frasure. He really was at a level that pushed me every race to preform my best and didn’t leave me any room for error. We had 8 years of neck and neck performances that always seemed to barely work out for me thankfully."
What is your ultimate sporting ambition?
"That has changed drastically since Beijing. In 8 years I had not lost the 100m and losing it due to an injury was not how I saw myself ending my career on the track. My ambition to end my track career with the gold in London keeps me motivated every day I wake up to train."
Who in your opinion is the greatest athlete ever? / Do you have an idol for your sport?
"Michael Jordan by far, but I really have never had a sports icon aside of my favourite athlete, Bo Jackson. I have no idols in my sport aside myself :)"
What are your favorite Össur products and why?
"That’s easy, the Cheetah. It has been the most influential product on all of Paralympics. It’s been the product I’ve won gold’s with, set world records and help changed the perceptions of many."
What specific support has Össur provided for you, technical or otherwise?
"Support from Össur has been very dynamic. I have not only been a sponsored athlete which has helped me reach the heights I have, but also helped me reach out to other amputees who need encouragement. I have been able to help put on running clinics, travel the nation meeting people and help design product, which went on to be competed in. There support has been the reason I have been able to accomplish what I have on the track, period."
How has Össur contributed to your success?
"Mainly it has been providing the best technology for everyday life and athletic performance. The main reason Össur is leading in amputee performance, is the reliability of the product. To travel the world training and competing, product reliability is the most important part. There are enough things to stress you about when getting ready to perform in front of 80,000 people, the last thing you need is a skeleton in the closet giving you doubt all the work you have put in may be jeopardized by product failure."
Do you have an inspirational quote or motto that you use?
"Dreams are great to have, passion is a necessity, but having the right goal and setting the proper foundation for those goals to become a reality is a must."
What is the best advice you have ever been given?
"To never forget where you have been and to remember where it is you want to go. To set up a goal and make sure you have the right plan to implement it."
Do you have any pre-event superstitions?
"I do, they are “Power Pellets” a bag of peanut M&M’s…."
Who would play you in a film of your life?
What is on your iPod when you are training?
"On cardio days its Techno. Speed days it’s Metallica. Warm up and stretching days is Hip-Hop… NEVER COUNTRY MUSIC!!!!!"
Tell us something we'd be surprised to know about you?
"I love to play the piano and guitar. It’s my meditation, but I can only play by ear because I can’t read music. "
What is the worst part of your training regime?
"Easily that’s cardio, It’s really hard to stay in one place going nowhere fast."
If you weren't an athlete what would you be doing?
"I’d be a commercial and aerobatic pilot. Aviation has always been a big part of my life and something I really enjoy. It’s the only reason, at times, why I wish I had a foot still, so I could be in the air force flying jets"
What do you like doing outside of your sport?
"Playing charity poker events. It’s fun to sit around and do something that is so mind oriented while have great company to chat with. It raises great money for foundations and has been a blast to play. Aside of the, I’m an avid golfer, which is the main reason I have a home in golf community. I love waking up on off training days and playing a round of golf with friends"
When you have time to see your friends, what do you like to do?
"We mostly play golf and then grab dinner. It a great break from the daily grind of life, yet still very competitive."
Shirley's story is all the more impressive because of what he's overcome. Abandoned by his birth mother at age 3, he lived on the street before he was adopted by a family in Utah at age 9. At age 5, while living in an orphanage, he fell under a lawnmower and lost his left foot. Still, he played high school football and competed successfully against able-bodied athletes in the high jump.
Early in Shirley's career he trained with Brian Hoddle, a well-renowned coach who took him under his wing. Within two years Shirley went from third to first place and became a Paralympic gold medal winner.
Shirley's ability lies in his training and the Flex-Foot Cheetah® prosthesis he wears for sprinting. For daily activities, he wears a LP Vari-Flex® from Össur, because of the smooth heel to toe transition it affords him.
He articulately addresses corporate CEO's, has met the President of the United States, travels the world and serves as a role model to all. Marlon is the recipient of several prestigious awards, including the United Nations' "Role Model of the 21st Century", two "ESPY" Awards and the "U.S. Olympic Spirit Award".
Feeling strongly that he wants to give back to the community, Marlon started the "Champions In Life" program. The goal of this mentorship program is to provide mentorship opportunities for children in underprivileged situations with focus on Foster Children and displaced children. Champions in Life also provides children with the opportunity to learn various life principles important to Marlon’s success as an athlete and a person. Such principles are Team Work, Goal Setting, Persevering, Dedication, Becoming a Role Model, along with many others. Visit his website at www.marlonshirley.com.