Oregon cross-country runner Justin Gallegos didn’t know that reps from Nike were waiting for him as he rounded the last bend in a race on National Cerebral Palsy Awareness Day… but there they were, waiting to sign him as the company’s first pro athlete with cerebral palsy.
As Gallegos finished the race, the camera crew, his teammates and Nike’s Insights Director John Douglass were there waiting. (You can watch the amazing video here.)
“I was once a kid in leg braces who could barely put on foot in front of the other!” Gallegos wrote on Instagram. “Now I have signed a three year contract with Nike Running!”
Gallegos used a walker as a child, but he began attending physical therapy to “improve his gait,” according to Running Magazine. He helped Nike develop a shoe for runners with disabilities while he was in high school. The shoe is called the FlyEase, and it features a zippered heel to make it easier to get on and off.
Now, Gallegos is a junior at the University of Oregon and a member of the school’s running club. He ran his first cross-country meet in October of 2016. According to the student paper, Gallegos lost a shoe just 50 meters into the 8-kilometer race – but he picked it up and kept running. Although he finished last in that race, he kept competing… and earlier this year, he completed the Eugene, Oregon Half Marathon in 2 hours and 3 minutes.
Nike is known for celebrating athletes across all sports. Will Burns, CEO of Ideasicle.com, has this to say: “Nike is layered. Lebron is about winning. Justin is about overcoming. Kaepernick is about believing in something… But with Justin Gallegos we see a deeper, more human depth to Nike’s 30-year-old brand idea. It redefines what ‘it’ is when saying ‘Just do it.’ With Justin, there’s no talk of how many 800s he won. There’s no talk of speed records. There’s no talk of outcomes at all.”
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