July 12, 2012
While many athletes are training for the Summer Olympics in London, others are preparing for the Paralympic Games. Jonathan Wentz, an SMU senior, will be representing the USA Equestrian Team in the 2012 Paralympic Games.
The Daily Campus: Can you describe your disability?
Wentz: My disability is cerebral palsy, which occurred at birth and causes spasticity in my muscles, especially my legs, and affects my range of motion, flexibility, strength, and control. I credit horses for giving me the core balance that enables me to walk.
What are you looking forward to the most at the Paralympic Games?
I look forward to being one of a very select group of elite athletes and having the honor of representing the USA, Texas, SMU, and all the horses and individuals that have played a role in making this possible!
What made you decide to compete?
I have always loved sports and competition and have tried many, including soccer, basketball, and snowboarding, but it was dressage that enabled me to compete against my able-bodied peers, and gave me an elite level to strive toward. My mother put me on a horse when I was two for physical therapy, but she never dreamed it would evolve into this. I also had the opportunity at an young age to be mentored by adult Paralympians and Paralympic coaches.
What do you feel has been the biggest challenge so far in your journey?
Funding. In 2008, a major change occurred in para equestrian dressage. It went from borrowing and catch riding horses provided by the Paralympic host country, to having to have your “own” horse that you brought to the Games. Also, the quality of the horses drastically improved, giving the advantage to European countries that fund their Para Equestrian athletes and provide quality horses, sometimes their Olympic horses, for them to use for competitions.
Readers can find more information on Wentz’s journey at www.jonathanwentz.org.