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Paralympic athlete Ray Martin

A Few Minutes With Ray Martin

Ray Martin, two-time Paralympian, seven-time medalist, and 2020 trainee, talks with AHS media relations specialist Vince Lara about why he came to Illinois, coach Adam Bleakney, and his future plans.

Click here to see the full transcript.

VINCE LARA: This is Vince Lara at the College of Applied Health Sciences at the University of Illinois. Today, I spend A Few Minutes With Ray Martin, two-time Paralympian, seven-time medalist, and 2020 trainee, who talks about why he came to Illinois, coach Adam Bleakney, and his future plans.

Ray, you were in kindergarten when you tried your first racing chair, but you didn't race competitively until your late teens. And I wonder why.

RAY MARTIN: Yeah, yeah, that's correct. And the reason, actually, is because I was doing multiple sports. So when I was growing up, I started with track and field. And I was in the program.

Now it's probably a sport club, but then it was just a bunch of volunteers. And we competed at the junior level. And every year, there's a Nationals event which is a multi-sport competition.

So I did other sports such as swimming, archery, things like that. So I actually didn't really dedicate all of my time to track and field. I had other practices to do as well.

VINCE LARA: OK. Now you're from New Jersey. Had you heard about the University of Illinois and its resources before you were even thinking about colleges?

RAY MARTIN: I was, actually. So I got a little bit serious into sports I want to say around sophomore year of high school. And my coach was familiar with the program at the U of I. He actually read the book written by Marty and kind of based his training off of that.

So he's very familiar with it, and he's actually the one who encouraged me to look into the school. And I did. And actually, it was the only college I applied to, which I don't recommend.

Looking back, it's a little silly to just apply to one college. But actually, it was the only college I applied to. And I applied for early admission, and I was just waiting to hear if I was going to go to college here or not. And personally, I got in. But again, I don't recommend just applying to one college.

VINCE LARA: Now how much of the reputation of Adam Bleakney played into your coming here, and how it-- and training here? How much of it was Coach Bleakney.

RAY MARTIN: Yeah. So it was a big part of it. So I actually hadn't met Adam until I did my visits here before coming to school here. So once you get accepted, you visit the school and just see the facilities and things like that.

So I had never actually met him, but he's such a household name in our sport that I was just imagining this-- when you don't meet someone, you hear all these great things about them. You kind of build this picture in your head. So I definitely had a very high expectation of Adam, and he certainly went to and exceeded those expectations now that I've been here for seven years.

VINCE LARA: Mm-hmm. Now this will be your third Paralympics, if you make it, obviously. What lessons have you learned about training and competition that you are putting into place in this training period?

RAY MARTIN: Sure. So as an early undergrad-- so in freshman and sophomore year, I just wanted to focus on marathons and do as much as I can and really put as much as myself in the training as I could. And it worked great. It really conditioned me to be an athlete-- be a professional athlete-- and it worked really well. But after the second games and not coming up on the third games, I'm learning that you need a little bit of balance in your life. And I think that makes a big difference just in terms of performance.

So for example, I started a job here in town, and it's a job that I've been applying to at that point for over a year. And I was accepted and offered a position. And my training changed a lot. So I work full time, and I can't actually train with the team at our scheduled practices. So I have to train on my own.

But after getting this job that I had looked forward to getting for over a year, I went to the competition two months after starting the job and actually had my best times in all of my events for three years. So my times were in 2015, and that whole time between then, I wasn't hitting those times. And then I got this job, trained a little bit differently, and then I performed just as well. So I think that really-- that balance really makes a difference for people.

VINCE LARA: Now for you, what happens after the 2020 games? Do you feel like you're done with sports at that point? And do you still feel like you'll be involved in Paralympics, and training in some way, or as a mentor in some way?

RAY MARTIN: Yeah. So that's a question I get a lot, actually. And it's hard to say. And I feel like everybody would tell you that it's hard to say because we all have this idea of what we want to do. And if training full time and competing at a higher level is not really conducive to that, then it's easy to say, oh, I'll be done here. But then you'll have athletes who say that, and then they miss the score, or they just can't drop it. So it's hard to say.

But I do have other goals in life. And I'm planning to apply to physician assistant school next year to start school in 2021 after the games. So I will hopefully finish my schooling before the 2024 games. But at the same time, I don't know what my life is going to look like that far ahead, especially that much change. So I don't want to say I will definitely do the 2024 tryout for those games, but I also don't want to say I'm definitely done after 2020.

VINCE LARA: My thanks to Ray Martin. This has been A Few Minutes With.

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