Local Paralympian returns to Simplot Games as mentor

Local paralympian comes back as mentor at Simplot Games

POCATELLO, Idaho (KIFI/KIDK) - Tyson Gunter grew up in McCammon and attended Marsh Valley High School.

He graduated from Idaho State University in Pocatello where he was a part of the track and field team.

Now, this year he's back in Pocatello at the Simplot Games as a Paralympian, hoping to help coach the next generation of athletes. Gunter competed in the Simplot Games himself when he was high school and volunteered at them during college so he's excited to be back.

"I love this and I have been in a lot of different competitions but the Simplot Games is always been a special thing for me because the crowd in Pocatello has always supported it well, competing against athletes that are some of the best in the nation," Gunter said.

Gunter said his goal had always been to make it to the Olympics. His events of choice, the high jump and long jump, were not offered in the Paralympics. But he said he found out he could have the opportunity to go as a runner so he did. He trained hard and in 2016 in Rio, walked into the opening ceremony as a Paralympian. 

"It was awesome," Gunter recounted. "When we walked into the stadium for the Olympic ceremonies, I mean it was cool. They told us not to use our phones or anything like that but this is something I may never get to do again so I'm pulling out my phone and I'm recording - the crowd went nuts - that whole experience was just amazing."

But Gunter's success doesn't come without its challenges. Gunter is considered legally blind.

"My vision is like looking through binoculars backwards," Gunter explained. "That's kind of a good description. It's not exactly like that, so it's tough for me to see smaller things and especially in track and field, if there's shadows, I have a lot of light sensitivity and so shadows or a lot of brightness really affect me."

And with no depth perception, he said his jumping events can be a real challenge. But he's learned to overcome that and other challenges, and that's what he hopes to inspire in the Simplot athletes, several of which could be future Olympians themselves.

"What I've learned with overcoming adversity is failure is an option," Gunter said. "I think that's something that people are scared to fail so they don't even try to do something. We fail all the time and that's okay. If you do learn from it and figure out what you can do different to be successful."

Gunter is a medalist and a three-time competitor in World Championships. He will be competing in Worlds again in 2019. He added that it was recently announced the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games would be adding long jump to its events for Paralympians so he hopes to make it back to the Olympics to compete at that - that he says is his next mission.

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