TAMPA (FOX 13) - It was a struggle for Omar Duran after returning to civilian life, and at one point was contemplating suicide. Then, he was introduced to one thing that ended up saving his life: handcycling.
Duran was in the Army, deployed in 2011 to Afghanistan. His life changed forever when an IED exploded nearby, sending him off a cliff and forcing retirement.
"I think it was two years of rehabilitation, lost vision in this eye, and incomplete spinal chord injury. It ripped my world apart because all I knew how to do was run," Duran told FOX 13. "It was a reality check because it was hard."
While he was recovering at Walter Reed Medical Center, he was introduced to handcycling, and the task of preparing himself.
"It takes away your limitations really. It gives you speed. It makes you focus. It builds you physically strong, mentally strong cause you have to strategize." Duran said.
After years of practice, he now travels all over the U.S. competing in races. Duran says he eventually wants to launch his own website where he wants to connect people in his world to handcycle parts, information on the sport and, ultimately, live coverage of parasports.
He wants to inspire people, and to let them that they don't have to rely on medical facilities.
"People look at me when I show up and say, 'Oh, poor guy.' It's about...being positive and pushing somebody next to you," Duran said. "I proved to them that it's something more than just looking at the technicality of me in this position, and you thinking I couldn't keep up."