Wheel­chair ath­lete at­tempts to shat­ter world record

The Covington News - - FRONT PAGE - SHAKEEM HOLLOWAY & JOHN RUCH news@cov­news.com

Cov­ing­ton ath­lete Michael Mills loves chal­lenges that some may think im­pos­si­ble for a man who is par­a­lyzed be­low the waist. He’s al­ready known lo­cally for com­pet­ing in ex­treme ob­sta­cle-course races. Now he wants to set a new Guin­ness World Record by pulling a 5,000-pound SUV the dis­tance of a foot­ball field—while in his wheel­chair.

Mills has been prac­tic­ing for the April 18 feat in a Rock­dale County park­ing lot, among other places. He tells the News that he not only got Guin­ness to give him a shot—he ac­tu­ally con­vinced them to cre­ate the “heav­i­est SUV pulled by a wheel­chair” cat­e­gory it­self.

“I don’t take no for an an­swer. I al­ways find a way,” Mills said, ex­plain­ing that Guin­ness at first de­clined be­cause it had no solo wheel­chair records. “I said, ‘You make the rule, I’ll prove you wrong.’”

Mills, 38, will at­tempt the truck-pulling record at the Fes­tivus Games—an am­a­teur sports com­pe­ti­tion—at CrossFit Etowah in Wood­stock. Just as im­por­tant to Mills, a hus­band and fa­ther of three, is that the feat dou­bles as a fundraiser for Bert’s Big Adventure, which pro­vides Dis­ney World trips to chil­dren with chronic or ter­mi­nal ill­nesses.

When Mills was par­a­lyzed, the town he’s from helped raise money for his mom and dad so they could keep their home. Mills says he would’ve been in a nurs­ing home if it weren’t for them. Their kind­ness gen­er­ated some­thing within Mills and he’s al­ways tried to find some­thing to give back to ever since. He found a so­lu­tion in Bert’s Big Adventure.

“I can’t imag­ine for the life of me what it would be like if one of my kids were sick or not well and how much it im­pacts a whole fam­ily,” Mills said. “At the end of the day if we can raise money for this char­ity and show proof to th­ese kids that life’s not over if you’re dis­abled or if you’re sick or ill. You can still do things and if you have that in your mind­set – that faith – you can go for­ward.”

“It would be cool to say I have the record,” Mills says, “but if I can raise money for this char­ity and show th­ese kids any­thing is pos­si­ble, that’s what it’s all about.”

While Mills has been pro­mot­ing the Guin­ness record ef­fort, he told the News the event ac­tu­ally will dou­ble as a feat for the ri­val or­ga­ni­za­tion Record­Set­ter. He said that Record­Set­ter al­ready has a cat­e­gory for wheel­chair truck-pulls, and that one record is held by an able-bod­ied South African man who used a wheel­chair as a stunt.

“I don’t think it’s right, a guy who can walk set­ting the record,” Mills said. “I’m go­ing to take it away from him.”

The Ri­p­ley’s Be­lieve It or Not or­ga­ni­za­tion will film the event for their web se­ries as well, Mills said.

In 1996, Mills was a 16-year-old grow­ing up in Mis­sis­sippi when his car was hit by a drunk driver. The crash nearly killed him and par­a­lyzed his legs. That life-chang­ing wreck pushed him to suc­ceed as an “adap­tive ath­lete,” mean­ing an ath­lete with a dis­abil­ity.

“When I got par­a­lyzed, I had to grow up real fast,” Mills told the News pre­vi­ously. “It was all about, ‘How are you go­ing to make it? How are you go­ing to get bet­ter? How fast can you do th­ese things?’ Ev­ery­thing I did was a com­pe­ti­tion.”

Mills’ un­wa­ver­ing con­fi­dence and de­sire to com­pete at such a high level de­spite his dis­abil­ity is some­thing that comes from his par­ents, es­pe­cially his dad who was mil­i­tary. When Mills came out of his coma for his car wreck his dad’s men­tal­ity was that his son had to be strong. When some­one says “you can’t do it” Mills wants to prove them wrong.

“You told me I can’t. I’m gonna show you I did. That’s one of my say­ings,” Mills said. “If some­one tells me I can’t, I’m go­ing to show you I did. I’ve al­ways been that way. I’ve al­ways been a glass half-full kind of per­son, not half-empty. I’ve al­ways wanted to be dif­fer­ent when I was a kid. I wanted to be dif­fer­ent. Two weeks be­fore I got par­a­lyzed, I told my dad I wanted to be dif­fer­ent than any­body else. He said, “Be care­ful what you wish for you just my get it.” Two weeks later I’m fight­ing for my life in a come from a car wreck.”

“From that day for­ward it was you’re dif­fer­ent. You asked for this, make it pos­i­tive. My life’s been bet­ter,” Mills added.

Mills says his life’s been great and he has no qualms. Mills hasn’t used his hand­i­cap as an ex­cuse; in fact he’s turned it into a pos­i­tive. The pow­er­fully built Mills par­tic­u­larly en­joys bru­tal phys­i­cal chal­lenges and en­durance com­pe­ti­tions.

He’s on a pro team for the Spar­tan Death Race, an ex­treme ob­sta­cle course, and is signed up for the sim­i­lar Bat­tle­Frog event in May at the Ge­or­gia In­ter­na­tional Horse Park. Mills is some­times the only adap­tive ath­lete com­pet­ing in th­ese events.

A few years ago some­one told Mills he couldn’t crawl up Stone Moun­tain. Now he does it the first week­end of ev­ery Fe­bru­ary. Mills lasted 25 hours in the Spar­tan Death Race be­fore he was cut where he was the 20th per­son to go out beat­ing 19 able bod­ied men who quit or were cut be­fore him. He’s also done an an Army Ranger event that re­quired a phys­i­cal 13 hours of phys­i­cal train­ing by Navy Seals.

He re­cently par­tic­i­pated in a 200-mile race in South Carolina, and fin­ished his an­nual climb of Stone Moun­tain— ac­com­plished by crawl­ing up on his hands and knees.

For the record-set­ting at­tempt, he will try to pull a 2015 Honda Pi­lot SUV that weighs just un­der 5,000 pounds for 100 me­ters. He has been train­ing heav­ily, in­clud­ing by pulling bor­rowed cars in a Rock­dale shop­ping cen­ter park­ing lot off McDonough High­way. He ties a 400-foot­long rope to a light pole, hooks him­self to the car with a har­ness, and pulls away.

The train­ing is a good con­ver­sa­tion-starter with “peo­ple scratch­ing their head, won­der­ing what I’m do­ing,” Mills said.

“The hard­est part is get­ting your mind set to do it,” he says of the mas­sive phys­i­cal ef­fort of such a feat. “If you can get it in your mind, your body will fol­low.”

As of Fri­day, the event raised $1,325 of the $2,000 goal. To sup­port Mills’ su­per­hu­man record at­tempt, go to https://www.crowdrise.com/fes­tivu­sand­michael4kids

For more in­for­ma­tion on Mills and the event, see his Face­book page at face­book.com/chas­ing­michaelmills.

sub­mit­ted photo / The Cov­ing­ton News

Michael Mills, an adap­tive ath­lete (legs are par­a­lyzed), will make an at­tempt to set a Guin­ness World Record Satur­day, April 18 at Crossfit Etowah in Can­ton by pulling a 5,000 pound SUV/Truck 100 me­ters from his wheel­chair.

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