John Register graduated from the University of Arkansas as a three-time All-American in track and field. In 1988, he qualified for the Olympic Trials in the 110-meter hurdles. He qualified again for the trials in 1992 in the 400-meter hurdles.
Register was good. Really good.
But in 1994, an injury changed everything.
It was May 17. Register was running hurdles. Something he had trained in for more than a decade. The Atlanta Olympics were just two years away, but one bad landing changed everything for the athlete in his prime.
“It was a freak accident,” Register said. “Kind of how you might step off a curb and twist your ankle. I was running and cleared the hurdle but landed awkward. I wound up dislocating my knee. My patella had twisted to the inside, and my left leg was laying across my right.”
In the jump, Register severed a major artery in his leg. Beside the pain and gangrene setting in, the accident left him with a difficult choice. Live in a wheelchair with a non-functional left leg, or have it amputated and run again.
“I wanted to not only return to sports, but I wanted to live life,” he said. “So, I decided to have it amputated. I understood what the doctors told me and what that meant. I knew I didn’t want to use a wheelchair or a walker for the rest of my life. And, I had the support of my family, so it wasn’t as difficult of a decision as it could have been.”
Even with a prosthesis, Register’s Olympic dreams were still realistic. After extensive rehabilitation, Register’s determination to return to athletics brought him to Atlanta for the 1996 Olympic Games. He competed in swimming with the U.S. Paralympic Team in the 4x400-meter relay. And, just four years later, he returned to track and field, competing in the 100-meter dash and long jump at the Paralmypic Games in Sydney.
Tonight, Register will share his insight and experiences at the opening ceremonies of this year’s Show-Me State Games.
“Everyone is an inspiration and has the power to inspire others,” he said of his message to the athletes. “Whether you’re young, old, a volunteer or a parent, everyone can make a difference. We all can make each other better than the day before, and sport is a catalyst to do that.”
The opening ceremonies for the 23rd annual Show-Me State Games begin tonight at 7 in Mizzou Arena. Athletes attending will parade in Olympic-style, followed by motivational speakers, an athlete oath and the lighting of the “Cauldron.”
Last year’s SMSG male athlete of the year, Christopher Brown, who completed a high jump of 7 feet, will be lighting the flame, according to Jennifer Shear, merchandise coordinator for the games.
An autograph session with MU athletes and Miss Missouri, Lindsay Casmaer, will conclude the evening. The event is free to the public.
As the largest state games in the country, the Show-Me Games will cover three weekends of sports; today through Sunday; July 27 through July 29; and Aug. 3 through 5. From archery and cycling to miniature golf and mountain biking, the games attract more than 26,000 athletes to Missouri in 40 sports.
And with a diverse range of sports available, including its newest additions, dodgeball and competitive dart throwing, the games give those individuals who might not otherwise participate a chance to compete.
“Being able to have as many sports available as possible allows all Missourians to compete,” the games’ senior information specialist Seth Myers said. “Any sport that’s gaining in popularity, we’ll try to incorporate. Now we even have skateboarding and cheerleading.”
Competitions in baseball, basketball, soccer, softball and tennis begin today and continue through the weekend at various sites in Columbia. Saturday and Sunday will kick-off competitions in judo, table tennis, ultimate frisbee, volleyball and wrestling, among others.
Most competitions require pre-registration, especially the more popular ones such as soccer, basketball and baseball, Myers said.
But, he added that a handful of sports do have on-site registration including disc golf, powerlifting, shooting and track and field events.
The games will also include a lacrosse tournament Aug. 11 through 12 at Hinkson Creek Fields in Columbia and a three-day sports challenge Sept. 28 through 30 at Fort Leonard Wood.
More information is available at www.smsg.org