Winning the men's push-rim wheelchair event at the Boston Marathon is a huge accomplishment alone, but being the youngest to ever win it and the first American in 26 years to do so is just icing on the cake for Mount Airy, Md., native Daniel Romanchuk.
Romanchuk, 20, finished the 26.2-mile race in 1:21:36, beating the second-place finisher by nearly three minutes April 15.
"A lot of different emotions and almost too short of a time frame to really express in words," Romanchuk said on
Glenn Clark Radio
April 16. "It's just an iconic race, it's where the wheelchair marathons got started. I think it's on pretty much everyone's list of races to win. It's just an incredible experience."
Romanchuk won the Chicago Marathon last October and the New York City Marathon last November. His next event will be the London Marathon April 28.
Romanchuk was born with spina bifida, which affects the spinal cord. Romanchuk began participating in the Kennedy Kreiger Institute's Bennett Blazers Physically Challenged Sports Program when he was 2 years old. Located in Baltimore, the program was a huge part of Romanchuk's upbringing, helping him train for competitions and preparing him for life outside of sports.
While at Bennett, Romanchuk developed a friendship with Maryland resident and push-rim wheelchair athlete Tatyana McFadden. McFadden, who will turn 30 April 21, is a decorated Paralympic athlete and five-time gold medalist in the women's wheelchair division of the New York City Marathon.
"It's a great program, not only for sports, but just generally how to live on your own eventually," Romanchuk said of Bennett. "... We were a little bit separated in age, but [McFadden] had mentored me and it has been a wonderful time."
Romanchuk appreciates the time older athletes spent helping him prepare, and being able to see them succeed has pushed him to get to where he is today.
"It has certainly kind of motivated me and just kind of made me ask myself, 'I wonder if I can get there and do the same things?'" Romanchuk said.
"I go back [to Bennett] and bring up the younger generation and just kind of teach them the sport and how to love the sport, so having older athletes kind of mentoring me at a young age, it's been instrumental, I think, in kind of getting me to where I am," he added.
McFadden has inspired Romanchuk to become a mentor himself. Even though he's still in his prime as an athlete, Romanchuk wants to help kids in similar situations as him.
"I would say it has been a dream to become a mentor and inspire people to, no matter what level they will end up at, get involved in something that they love," Romanchuk said. "It's just kind of been a dream to get to where I am and to inspire people to go out, just do a marathon, not necessarily win it, but just go out."
To hear more from Romanchuk, listen to the full interview here:
Photo Credit: Joe Kusumoto