Marlon Shirley: World’s Fastest Amputee

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The 11-second barrier fell to Marlon Shirley as he set a new men's amputee world record in the 100m sprint June 21 at the Utah Summer Games (USG) held in Cedar City, Utah. Competing against able-bodied athletes, he also took second place.

Shirley's accomplishment not only makes him the world's fastest amputee, but also heralds a new pinnacle in the growing competitiveness of disabled athletics, which is supported by advancements in prosthetic technologies opening the way for amputees to match able-bodied athletes.

With a time of 10.97 seconds, Shirley's achievement is comparable to the women's world record set by Florence Griffith-Joyner at 10.49 seconds and just slightly more than a second behind current world record-holder Tim Montgomery, who completed the 100m in 9.78 seconds. His prowess earned him the 2003 ESPY Award as Best Disabled Athlete.

"I've got world-class training. I've got great coaching, the best sports medicine, the best sports psychology, and the best prosthetic running leg. Now, I've got the best times, too," said Shirley, who lost his left foot at age five in a lawnmower accident.

To help achieve his record-breaking times, Shirley uses the Ossur Flex-Foot Cheetah prosthetic foot, named after the world's fastest land animal, which returns energy to Shirley while he runs.

Sprinting is not Shirley's only talent. He holds the record for the long jump at 22 ft 3 in. and is a renowned high jumper.

Overcoming Obstacles

Amputation is not the only obstacle Shirley has overcome. Abandoned by his mother at age three, he lived on the street before he eventually found his way into the foster care system. When he was nine, he was adopted by a loving Utah couple who supported him in his goals. "He does what anybody else does and then some," said Marlon's dad, Kerry Shirley, quoted in a story by Francisco Ojeda in the Daily Oklahoman, July 29, 2003. "He helps inspire people. He's reached a point where he raised the bar and closed the space between what amputees can do and what able bodies can do."