NORWAY — Local para-athlete Joshua Kennison is hoping new running blades — and a whole lot of work — will propel him to his sport’s biggest stage. 

The 25-year-old Oxford Hills graduate, Norway native and sprinter is training to qualify for the 2016 Paralympics in Brazil. 

A congenital quadrilateral amputee, Kennison was born without feet, so he uses prosthetics that wrap around his lower legs. Carbon-fiber running blades, each weighing a couple of pounds, strap onto those. 

His arms end near the elbows. He also was born without a tongue, and is missing a section of his jaw.

He is also one of the fastest athletes on the planet. 

Two summers ago, Kennison took bronze in the T43 category — for competitors who are missing both legs — at the International Paralympic Committee Athletics World Championships in Lyon, France. In competitions around the world since, he has taken first place in races in Italy and the United States.

In the run-up to paralympics, Kennison said he needs to take half a second or so from his 100-meter dash time. Part of his strategy is to upgrade his treads.

This past Thanksgiving, he tested a wide range of blades at a sports science research center in Colorado. Wearing a blade is like taking a small bounce on a trampoline, he said, each with its own unique amount of spring and resistance.

His favorite and the ones he hopes to purchase keep him at his current height of 5  feet, 9 inches and are designed by an Icelandic manufacturer. Some sprinters wear blades that increase their height to lengthen their stride.

During testing, he topped out running at 10.9 meters a second — roughly equivalent to 24.4 miles per hour, a speed he believes will book his ticket to South America in two summers. 

Had he worn the gear at the 2012 games in London, he said, he would have qualified. 

“But you live and learn and life goes on,” Kennison said. 

To help raise money — each blade costs about $1,700 — he has set up a GoFundMe account, asking for donations to help make his dream come true. As of Wednesday evening, donations amounted to $2,275.

He’ll know more about how his training is paying off and his chances of qualifying after competing in July’s Parapan Am games in Toronto, where he can measure his speeds against athletes from around the Americas.

Growing up, Kennison was a driven athlete, dreaming of becoming a professional soccer player and competing in track and field.

Though he disliked practicing when he first started in middle school, he eventually saw how training could give him an edge, be it by winning a race or simply besting his previous time. 

During the winter, Kennison trains at an indoor track at Bates College, doing springs, sled pulls, time trials and medicine ball power workouts. Since competing in France, he’s lowered his 100-meter dash time from 11.7 to 11.4 seconds. 

When he’s not training, he’s also a motivational speaker at schools, using his life as a parable about overcoming adversity. Students, he said, ask normal questions: How do you write, drive and do normal, everyday tasks?

He said his mother — his role model — raised him as a normal child, and so he’s comfortable answering their questions; they help him accept himself, and move on. 

“That’s how I do it,” he said.

Kennison said the paralympics remain a large unknown compared to the Special Olympics, and sometimes people confuse his sport for the latter, which is irksome if not entirely unexpected. There’s a large misconception, he said, that physically disabled athletes are also mentally disabled. 

If anything, he said, there’s a tougher road: Athletes such as Kennison are limited in the workout routine they can do, and have to be inventive to overcome it, such as tossing a medicine ball. 

His unique disability makes it harder to turn the corners along the 200-meter dash, because he can’t pump his arms like other athletes.

“Still,” he said, “that’s life, and you’ve got to take it one day at a time, and make the best of it you can.”

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