Para-Olympian Urges Better Choices

Katy Ly, Staff Writer

Trooper Johnson, a retired wheelchair basketball athlete and Para-Olympian, spoke to students during a special assembly on March 12, in the big gym.

Toni Finnane, who organized the event, said that she heard of Johnson through Project Open Hands, a club that works with children with disabilities and special needs. “Since he’s involved with wheelchair basketball, I heard about him through my contacts,” she explained.

According to Johnson and his biography on the Golden State Road Warriors website, when he was 17 years old he was injured in a drunk driving accident that left his legs paralyzed.

He has participated in several sports after the accident, such as wheelchair football, sky diving, and even rock climbing, where he became the second paraplegic to climb El Capitan in Yosemite.

He’s most well known for his career as a wheelchair basketball athlete. Johnson is the only player in the country to have been selected to the last 12 NWBA (National Wheelchair Basketball Association) teams.

He led his team, the Golden State Road Warriors, to a gold medal in the 1998 World Championship Games, and his silhouette was used in the NWBA official logo. He has also been a member of the US National Basketball team for the Paralympics from 1990-2004.

Now he is the Director of Sport Technology for the NWBA High Performance Plan, which uses technology to help enhance athlete performances. He also does motivational/awareness presentations for students from elementary to high school.

Finnane said that she thought Johnson would be of interest to her peers because of his range of experiences, including his drunk driving accident. Leadership advisor Dino Petrocco added that Toni “thought his [Johnson’s] message was a pertinent one for the Campo student body.”

After the presentation, which ranged from a graphic description of Johnson’s accident to the struggles involved with scaling cliffs in Yosemite, Finnane said, “I thought he was enthusiastic in front of a crowd and had a good stage presence and appealed to our age.”

Petrocco said, “I thought he has a compelling story. I would hope that he was able to make a lasting impression.”

“You would hope that if there’s one kid that changes then it’s worth it,” said Johnson about his message, which include a plea to students about avoiding risky behavior. “If you open kids’ minds to the powers they can create, diverting any patterns, if we can look at one kid and change his or her decisions that could potentially create an accident, it’d be worth it.”‘