Student-athlete Josh Winsper, ’20, has his sights set on qualifying for the Summer Paralympics in Tokyo in 2020.
Last year at the 2017 Paralympics Track and Field National Championships held at the University of California-Los Angeles, Josh earned a gold medal in the javelin and silver in the shot put. Next up is a trip to Ireland to compete in the 2018 IWAS World Games this summer, where Josh will gain international exposure as a member of team U.S.A.
The Rochester native is majoring in physical education with a concentration on exercise science.
Josh, who has achondroplasia, a form of short-limbed dwarfism, started his track and field career as a freshman at Old Rochester Regional High School. That’s where athletic director and track and field coach Bill Tilden recruited him to join the track team.
“He’s the reason I’m doing what I’m doing,” Josh said of his former coach.
Coach Tilden was the first to encourage Josh to explore the possibility of competing at the Paralympic level. It’s a journey that started in 2016, when Josh competed at the Paralympic Trials in Charlotte, NC.
Since then, he’s continued to train and improve as an athlete. Competition has made him better, and the expectations he has for himself have increased over time.
“Knowing I have a decent opportunity to make the (U.S. Paralympic) team in 2020, knowing that opportunity is there—that is what drives me. Not everybody has the opportunity to make the U.S. team,” he said.
Make no mistake, Josh said, the Paralympics are not to be compared to the Special Olympics.
“It’s important for people to realize it’s competitive, there are no consolation prizes. These are elite athletes… It’s parallel to the Olympics,” he said. (In fact, in Sunday’s New York Times, a headline on the front of the Sports page read, “The Paralympics Go Pro.”)
Josh came to BSU last January after spending a semester at Merrimack College. He joined the BSU track and field team and trains under assistant coach Al Blaisdell. Josh credits BSU for helping him successfully reach his goals.
“When I first came here, I was 100 percent supported. The athletic department, coaches, President Clark and the trustees have all been supportive as a whole,” he said.
Josh also has the backing from his father Jim, a New Bedford firefighter, and mother, Karen, who works as a technology director for the Norton public schools.
In all phases of his life, he said he has found a home at BSU.
“I definitely prefer a public school over a private school…it’s more my cup of tea,” he said. “Bridgewater has done a lot for me. If you have goals, whether athletically or academically, you can find opportunities here to help you reach them.” (Story by Heather Harris Michonski, University News)