Trevon Jenifer: U.S. Paralympian, Wheelchair Basketball
Team USA Paralympians: Road to Tokyo
U.S. Paralympian Trevon Jenifer was born without lower limbs due to a condition called congenital phocomelia. He began playing wheelchair basketball at age 4, setting himself on a path to the Paralympic Games and a gold medal in 2016. Jenifer reflects on his journey to compete in Tokyo as part of Team USA.
Jul 15, 2021
Anderson: Trevon Jenifer, better known as Trey, was born without limbs due to a rare disease called Congenital Phocomelia, but that didn't stop him from pursuing his dreams and achieving greatness as a two-time Paralympic medalist. Hello, and welcome to "Comcast Newsmakers." I'm Tetiana Anderson. Trey began playing wheelchair basketball at the tender age of 4 years old, setting himself on a path to Paralympic gold in Rio in 2016. And Trey joins me today to share his story of determination. Trey, thank you for being here.
Jenifer: Thanks, Tetiana, for having me. I really appreciate it.
Anderson: So it was your stepfather who introduced you to this whole idea of wheelchair basketball. Once that set in, once you tried it, what went through your head as you envisioned this as a real possibility for your future?
Jenifer: Yes, so my stepfather came into my life when I was four, and that is actually when I got my start. Being able to see my three brothers and sister participate in sports on the sideline was something that I loved to do, but we had this alpha athlete kind of mentality in our household, so being able to actually participate in competition and be able to show what I can do out there on the court was something that I honestly love to do. But to think that this would take me to the next level where I would be able to get out of the state of Maryland, not only to travel and see different parts of the United States, but to travel the world and play against some of the greatest athletes around the world, has been something that you would only dream of.
Anderson: And really, it's adapted sports that sort of made all of this possible for you. How important is it, do you think, for people to realize that this is an opportunity for entertainment, for engagement, for healthy competition in their own lives?
Jenifer: Yes, so what we do is we call this our life, so we train five, six, seven times a week to prepare our bodies, our minds, to get ready for a competition against some of the world's greatest athletes. So like I said, this is a part of our life, so we're in the gym, on the court, pushing every day, but this is also something to be able to use this rehab for individuals that are in the just recently injured. We use this as a bridge for them to be able to get acclimated back into the community, being able to push forward, to see some of their peers and be able to use sport as a bridge from their pre-injury to post-injury.
Anderson: An opportunity for you to excel at the highest levels. What does it mean to you to be part of Team USA?
Jenifer: It's phenomenal to represent Team USA as a whole. When we go out there, we don't just represent ourselves as an athlete or the name on the back of the jersey. We represent Team USA, our family members, those 11 other guys that are putting in that same effort, energy. We're representing them and the United States of America, so it's very important for us to go out there and make sure that we represent ourselves very highly, and so that people can see that the time and energy that we put into this is just to perfect our craft and be able to represent that on a world stage.
Anderson: And when it comes to the games as a whole, what's the overarching value, in your mind, in terms of the exposure to people, to sports, to the idea that great success can be achieved no matter what your circumstances?
Jenifer: Yeah, I think that we're all ambassadors of disability rights and awareness and pushing the Paralympic movement. We've seen massive growth of spectators seeing our sports in the different sports that we have. And when people tend to see individuals with disabilities, they think that we're expert for all things disabled. But I remember my very first Paralympics and I was blown away by blind soccer. So what I like to do is I encourage people to go out and try to be a spectator for all sports that we see in the Olympic and Paralympic level. If it's something you're not familiar with, try to watch it. Dip your toe in just for a little bit, because I'm a firm believer that you might be blown away by something you didn't even know existed.
Anderson: I know you've talked about this a little bit before, but how much has your physical composition contributed to who you are as a person? How connected are those two things?
Jenifer: I credit my strength to my parents. Growing up as a kid, we've all gone through that phase where we're destroying clothes with grass stains and rips. And I was the same way when I would scoot around on my hands to travel around. And so my parents were like, "Trey, you know, we're not going to continue forking out all this money for you to get new clothes." So they taught me how to walk on my hand and a handstand everywhere we went. So they built up that upper body strength that I use, that strength and endurance to be able to push through this competition, but also to live my life independently as I can, caring for my two children. And this is my life, and so being able to use that strength and that knowledge to be able to push through some of those barriers today is something that I credit back to my past.
Anderson: Trey Jenifer, Paralympic gold medalist, thank you so much for being here.
Jenifer: Thank you so much. I really appreciate you having me. Thank you.
Anderson: And you can see the Paralympic Games in Tokyo on the networks of NBC Universal. And as always, thanks for watching, and for more great conversations with leaders in your own community and across the nation, log on to ComcastNewsmakers.com. I'm Tetiana Anderson.
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