Michael Godfrey's paraplegia rehabilitative therapy might make him an Olympian.
Godfrey, a Dublin resident, lost the use of much of his lower body during a bull riding accident in 1999 after riding competitively for more than 18 years. He broke his neck and lost his pectoral muscles during the injury.
For the past two years, Godfrey has participated in a special fitness training program at Tarleton State University's Laboratory of Wellness and Motor Behavior (LWMB).
LWMB supervisor Bryan Ruiz, a graduate research assistant and former four-year Tarleton track star, has planned and supervised Godfrey's intensive training program.
"I focus on improving Michael's weight, cardiovascular system, flexibility and overall well being," Ruiz said. "Most people get injured like this and give up, then become sick or die from a secondary disease. We take an approach to improve overall health and prevent any kind of secondary issues from happening."
Every day Godfrey is helped from his wheelchair and into the pool for a workout that is changing his life. He has improved his diet, endurance and arm strength by swimming and working out in the cycling lab.
Godfrey has overcome his limitations and lost 73 pounds in the past year as well.
"That has made it a lot easier because he is able to transfer from his wheelchair to a regular chair, his bed or anywhere a lot easier," Ruiz said. "It's a lot easier to transfer 170 pounds than 230 pounds."
His improvements in strength and speed in the pool motivated him to explore competitive swimming as a paraplegic.
Godfrey has cut 40 seconds off his time since he began competitive swimming at a Santa Clara, California swim meet last October and in Colorado Springs he recently qualified for five events for the Paralympics Trials set for June 14 in Bismarck, North Dakota.
Godfrey recorded a 1:13, a personal best, during an exhibition at Tarleton's swimming pool, but to qualify, he must complete the race in less than 60 seconds.
Godfrey expects practice to make perfect and to land a spot in the 2012 Paralympic Games in London.
"I can't miss any days of swimming in the next seven weeks," Godfrey said. "Every time I get in the pool I get better. I trim a second or two off my time each time I swim."
If he qualifies in North Dakota, he will represent the United States and compete in the 2012 Paralympic Games in London just six weeks later and in the same locale as the Summer Olympics.
"Since (my injury), I've done things I've never ever done before," Godfrey said. "Rodeo took me nationwide, swimming is taking me worldwide."