Christy Gardner of Oxford throws the shot put at the United States Paralympic Track and Field Nationals in Miramar, Florida, in June. Rick Stephens Photography

Christy Gardner thought about retiring from competing in Paralympic track and field after dislocating her right elbow at the United States Paralympic Track and Field trials in 2021.

It was the second time she had dislocated her elbow. However, instead of retiring, Gardner focused on the U.S. Paralympic Track and Field Nationals in Miramar, Florida.

“I strongly considered retiring,” Gardner said. “The elbow is still really sore. I need a complete reconstruction, (the doctors) said, because some ligaments on one side are torn, and some ligaments on the other side are overstretched from compensating. So, the whole elbow is loose and painful all the time.”

Gardner, 40, graduated from Edward Little High School in 2000 then competed for the track and field team at Long Island University, from which she graduated in 2005.

After college, she joined the Army, and during an overseas peacekeeping mission in 2006, she suffered a fractured skull and became paralyzed below the knees. In 2015 and 2016, after much pain and difficulty, she had her lower legs amputated.

“I throw in the wheelchair class; so you are seated, and you are strapped down,” Gardner said. “You aren’t allowed to move anything below the waist. So the backs of your knees have to be strapped to the frame, and your thighs are strapped down. It’s excruciating, like a tourniquet. Literally, nothing below your waist can move, so you are just isolating your upper body.


“I can throw as far now just with my upper body as I did in college as an able body.”

She began shot put and discus throw training in early May for the Desert Challenge Games in Mesa, Arizona, held May 18-22, a qualifying event for the U.S. Paralympic Track and Field Nationals.

Christy Gardner finishes her throw at the US Paralympic Track and Field Nationals in Miramar, Florida. She broke her national record in the shot put. Rick Stephens Photography

“I really took it easy, and I wasn’t expecting a lot because it’s not an Olympic year,” Gardner said. “It’s more of a rest year for a lot of us. I started easy and I hit 8 meters the first week (of training). I hit 8.4 meters the next week and I hit 8.9 right before the games. Somehow, in the games, I matched my previous American record.”

Gardner also qualified for nationals in the F57 classification of the discus at the Desert Challenge Games.

At the nationals, held June 16-18 in Florida, she broke her own national record in the women’s F34-57 sport class of the shot put with a throw of 9.34 meters (30 feet, 7.75 inches). Her previous best mark was 9.19 meters.

She also won the F57 discus at nationals with a toss of 22.63 meters (74 feet, 3 inches).


The classifications determine the groupings of athletes for competition., which works to explain “the rules of parasport in language the audience understands,” describes F34 as being “for field athletes with movement affected to a low degree in the trunk and arms with highly affected legs.” F57, meanwhile, “is for field athletes with movement affected to a low degree in one leg, moderately in both feet or the absence of limbs.”

Now Gardiner has her sights on the Paralympic world championships in 2023 and the Paralympics in 2024 — both will be held in Paris, France. At her home in Oxford, she has an indoor throwing arena that she will use often in the winter to keep her arm in shape.

She also is seeing an orthopedist to, hopefully, help ease her elbow pain.

“My new orthopedist is phenomenal — I hope to continue to work with him to get my arm in shape where it needs to be to give it a go for the next summer games 2024 in Paris,” Gardner said.



Since returning from the track nationals, Gardner turned her focus to her other sport, sledge hockey.

She will be on Team USA for the World Para Ice Hockey Women’s World Challenge, which will happen from Aug. 26-28 in Green Bay, Wisconsin.

Christy Gardner of Oxford broke her own national record in the shot put at the United States Paralympic Track and Field Nationals in Miramar, Florida, in June. Rick Stephens Photography

“We are finally hosting in the U.S.,” Gardner said. “My mom is going to come to cheer me on and come see my play — that’s pretty cool.”

Recently the team had a training camp at Norway Savings Bank Arena from June 22-26. They also spent time on those days bonding off the ice in the Auburn-Lewiston area.

“This camp we just had in Maine is the biggest camp we’ve ever done,” Gardiner said. “To have the girls all together for a solid week … We did two-a-days on the ice and we did a ton of team bonding. Aside from living together and cooking together, we went axe throwing at Splittin’ Wood and went to Roy’s (for) mini-golfing. We really spent that time together off the ice, too. At the end of the week, we were exhausted from hour and a half two-a-days and we spent so much time getting to know each other and laughing together. It should help us out for worlds a lot.”

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