How getting in touch with his roots led a Nanakuli native to compete in PyeongChang

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - More than a decade ago, Jeremy Wagner's life changed forever.

After returning from a tour in Iraq, the west side native and Army Sergeant was involved in a motorcycle crash that left him paralyzed from the waist down.

But he's never allowed his physical limitations to slow him down.

In fact, Wagner is just days away from traveling to South Korea to take part in his second Paralympic Games.

Biathlon and cross-country skiing are considered two of the most grueling sports at the Winter Olympics - and Wagner does it without the use of his legs.

But the Oahu native actually found his knack for both sports in much more familiar territory.

Wagner was looking for a physical outlet and thought paddling would be a good way to connect with his Hawaiian roots at the same time.

So after spending time at a rehabilitation center in Palo Alto, California, he returned to Hawaii and found an adaptive paddling group, called Pure Light.

Paddling took him to national competition for veterans, where Wagner's abilities caught the eye of Paralympic coaches who suggested he try biathlon and cross country skiing.

Years of training later, and Wagner was on the 2014 Paralympic team and competing in the Winter Games in Sochi.

"So much goes into it," said Wagner, of the training it took to get the games in Russia. "It's not like any other race in the world cup circuit or nationally. Everything is just tenfold. I was kind of in awe of everything."

In 2018, Wagner once again earned his place on the Paralympic team, and is heading for PyeongChang where he will again compete in biathlon and a number of cross-country skiing events. Except this time, he feels more prepared than ever to compete on the sport's biggest stage.

"I still understand that it's a huge event that only happens every four year," said Wagner. "But, at the same time, it is just another race. It's just like every other race. It's just in a different location."

Wagner says getting onto the podium isn't his only goal in South Korea. He's also hoping to score some authentic Korean bar-b-que as well.

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