Paralympics champion Doug Heir makes a comeback at age 60

NEW YORK — One of the world’s most decorated athletes makes a comeback at age 60, but his return goes much deeper than just sports.

This Paralympic champion takes center stage in Snapshot New York with Steve Overmyer this week.

Doug Heir may not have a grip, but an ace bandage allows him to cling to one more shot at Olympic glory.

Heir is the most decorated Olympian in history with 336 gold medals in the Paralympic Games. He even featured on a Wheaties box and became an international celebrity.

That journey began with a tragedy in 1979 when heir was a lifeguard who tried to save a drowning child. He dove into the pool, hit his head on the bottom and broke his neck.

The heir’s brother, Brian, was there to get him out.

“I was in shock. Is this really happening? Is this going to be part of his life?” Brian Heir.

Doug would never have feeling under his chest again. But heir did not have time to feel sorry for himself. Brian wouldn’t allow him.

“For the first few weeks in the hospital, he would put duct tape weighing a pound on my wrist as he leaves the hospital and say, ‘See you tomorrow,'” Heir said.

Heir learned the javelin, shot put and discus throw in his backyard. His first race was a year on the day after his accident. Not only did he win, he broke the world record in all three events.

“The first one was really special, I must say. My brother was there,” heir said.

“Losers make it happen. Winners make it happen. My brother’s definition is a winner. He makes it happen,” said Brian Heir.

Even after his athletic career was over, Doug Heir continued to win. This time as a personal injury lawyer for Christopher Reeve, among others.

Heir is now taking on a new challenge two decades after his retirement, table tennis.

“He is the number one wheelchair athlete in the world in javelin, shot put and discus. Now he is going to do it in ping pong and table tennis. What could be better?” said the heir’s brother.

Heir has been training for months with a world famous coach and of course his brother.

“The ability for a disabled person, for someone who has no dexterity to do this, is just brilliant,” said Brian Heir.

“I don’t know how far it will go. I think I’m in 20th place in the world now, which is pretty good. But I think there are only 20 players. So not bad,” said Doug Heir.

The heir cannot grasp the paddle. He has no mobility under the chest and limited shoulder movement. But he also reminds everyone that it’s not about what you don’t have. It’s about who you have.

What they have already realized is that for them this journey is not about winning a gold medal. It’s about their brotherhood.

“It’s just amazing that we’re completely reliving what we did 20 years ago. But it’s more exciting now because we’re older,” said Brian Heir.

“If God could send me an angel as a brother…I’m so lucky. If I get another Wheaties box or get a gold medal, he’s with me. So we did it together,” Doug Heir said.

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