Hunter competing in the 2016 Paralympic Games.
Source: Instagram

Paralympian Hunter Woodhall Gave up His Division I Track Scholarship to Go Pro

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Jul. 28 2021, Published 10:15 a.m. ET

In 2017, Paralympian Hunter Woodhall earned an NCAA Division I track scholarship to the University of Arkansas, becoming the first double amputee to do so. However, Hunter is now giving up his scholarship and forgoing his senior year to become a professional athlete. Even though he has said that he has waived his NCAA eligibility to train for the delayed 2020 Paralympics in Tokyo, Hunter also said it's due to the NCAA's rules on image and likeliness.

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After the 22-year-old won a silver and bronze medal at the 2016 Paralympics in Rio, Hunter parlayed his fame into a massive Instagram following and joined the new waves of college athletes showing every aspect of their lives on social media. Between having more than 2 million followers on TikTok and his side business, Giant Hoodies, the NCAA reportedly wanted him to give it all up. On Instagram and TikTok he creates content to normalize conversations about his disability through humor.

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In an interview with People, he revealed, "If I wanted to continue competing in the NCAA, I had to pay back a large sum of money to reimburse for the money I've made from my company and the money I've made on social media." He would also have to scrub his social media clean, and Hunter said for him, "it was just too much." Fans are curious to know how the athlete became an amputee and a track star.

How did Paralympian Hunter Woodhall become an amputee?

Hunter was born with a rare condition called fibular hemimelia, which is when some or all of the lower bones in the legs are missing. When he was 11 months old, his parents decided to have his legs amputated below the knee after being told their son would never walk. However, becoming an amputee didn't stop Hunter from participating in sports while growing up.

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He skied and played both soccer and T-ball, as well as pretty much anything his two older brothers participated in. When Hunter got to junior high, he discovered a new passion, and that was track. The athlete made a few close friends that just so happened to be on the track team. His friends encouraged him to join, and that's when everything changed for him.

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Learning to run wasn't an easy feat for Hunter, but he worked hard and was determined to run. In an interview with ESPN, he shared, "The biggest thing people don't realize, this isn't something people like me with disabilities chose. I didn't choose to have my legs amputated and to run without legs. I'm just a normal kid trying to live my life and chase my dreams."

Hunter and his girlfriend Tara Davis will both be competing in Tokyo.

Hunter's girlfriend, Tara Davis, is a fellow track and field athlete. She will be competing in the Tokyo Olympics in the long jump, and Hunter will be running in the 100 meter and 400 meter races in the Paralympics. The couple laid eyes on one another back in 2017 at a high school track meet in Pocatello, Idaho. An event that, interestingly, Hunter was going to skip out on. It was his birthday that day, and Tara decided to approach him and give him a hug.

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She told Elle, "When I first saw him, I was like, 'Oh my god! This boy is fine!' I had to figure out who he was." Hunter had spotted Tara the day before and had told one of his friends that he had found the girl he wanted to marry, and he told the magazine he was so happy when she came up to him. He said, "I was like, 'Wow, this girl is bold—she knows what she wants.'"

The two were in a long-distance relationship for a few years and spent time together living in Austin, Tex., during the COVID-19 pandemic. The two will be living together under the same roof in Fayetteville, Ark. Tara recently joined her boyfriend as a professional track and field athlete. The pair have signed deals with the athletic wear brand Champion.

We wish them all the best, and will be rooting them on as they compete in Tokyo!

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