Waters Drifts into Life as World-Class Para-Athlete
Determination and hard work. That’s what took Jacob Waters, 17, twelfth-grader at Springs Studio for Academic Excellence, from being born with a birth defect to world-class athlete. Waters is competing in the Para-cycling World Championships in Rio De Janeiro, March 22-25.
Waters was born in Lake Charles, Louisiana with Jackson Weiss Syndrome, a rare disease that caused the bones in his lower left leg to be deformed or missing. By the time Waters was 10 years old, he had gone through four surgeries to correct the condition. “It always hurt to walk, and I could never do what all the other kids were doing,” shared Waters.
In 2010, Waters was walking in a field when his horse got scared and kicked him on the left side of his lower back. The incident lacerated his spleen, shattered a kidney and caused internal bleeding, requiring another hospital stay.
Waters recovered from the accident and continued growing like any young boy, except in his left leg and foot. Concerned doctors wanted to perform yet another surgery.
That is when Waters decided on his own to amputate his foot and part of his leg. “I had heard of amputees doing things,” said Waters. “I knew there was a better way to live.”
Two months after the amputation, Waters got his first prosthetic. When a friend mentioned he was competing in a triathlon, Waters decided he would participate too. He had always liked most sports, including cycling.
True inspiration came in summer 2013. The Wounded Warriors Amputee Softball Team was playing in his hometown. “It was really great to see them play, since they all wore prosthetics,” Waters commented. “I gained confidence and motivation to do so much more.”
From there, Waters blossomed as a cyclist. Just two years later, Waters had raced in 30 local races and two national events. In some competitions, he was racing against para-athletes like himself, and in others, he was racing able-bodied athletes. “I didn’t like losing, so I kept riding,” Waters remarked.
Elevating his riding meant training in a world-class facility. Waters came to Colorado Springs to train at the U.S. Olympic Training Center January 2017. As a high schooler, he needed a way to train as a top para-athlete and be a student at the same time.
That’s when Waters found Springs Studio for Academic Excellence. “Jacob is one of three U.S. Olympic Training Center athletes at SSAE,” shared Jodi Fletcher, principal. “Another 70 students are high performance participants in ice hockey, wrestling, dance and gymnastics.” The school caters to elite athletes offering blended learning with a few days each week in the classroom and some instruction online.
At national competitions, Waters has brought home three titles in cycling. One of those championship titles was against able-bodied athletes. At the U.S. Nationals in Colorado Springs last December, Waters earned three medals, including one gold.
The trip to Rio de Janeiro is the first international competition for Waters. He’ll compete in two para-cycling track events – the 4 km race and the 1 km time trial.
Waters is overflowing with thanks for people who helped start his journey as a para-cyclist. Steve Katchur, a pro-cyclist in Europe for 10 years, was his first coach. “He taught me how to be a good rider and got me to where I am today,” Waters stated. “The Bicycle Superstore in Lake Charles has always made sure I got good deals on bikes.”
Fletcher had her own thanks for Waters. “Jacob has brought exciting energy and southern charm to our school,” commented Fletcher. “He has a motivating story for our students about overcoming any obstacle.”
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