Jent the Jet: Hoosier runner competes in Paralympics in Rio 

Opening ceremonies in Rio are tonight

click to enlarge Ayden Jent represents Team USA - SUBMITTED PHOTO
  • Ayden Jent represents Team USA
  • Submitted Photo

Most people train their whole lives to become an Olympian.

Hoosier native Ayden Jent only needed one year.

On July 3 — just one year after his first competition — Jent, 23, was named to the USA Track & Field team for the 2016 Paralympics, taking place from September 7 through September 18 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

The Paralympic Games gives athletes with physical disabilities — including mobility disabilities, amputations, blindness and cerebral palsy — the opportunity to compete. There are 22 events that will take place in this year's games.

RELATED: Opening ceremonies for the Paralympics are tonight 

But this Indy runner's journey to the Paralympics is just one of many stories in the colorful life of Ayden Jent.

When he runs in Rio, Jent not only wears the colors of the United States of America, he runs with Indianapolis in his heart. Jent's story isn't just a story of perseverance. It's a story of a city he loves, a city he lives and breathes for.

click to enlarge Jent in action - SUBMITTED PHOTO
  • Jent in action
  • Submitted Photo
Ayden Jent was born in April of 1993, three months early. After spending his first three months in an incubator at a Fort Wayne hospital, he suffered another setback. He was given the wrong formula, causing issues with his small intestines. He was diagnosed with cerebral palsy. Doctors said he would never be able to walk.

Then, another challenge.

After returning to their LaGrange home from a family trip in 1998, Jent's mother heard him coughing deeply from another room. After going to investigate, she saw the room was on fire. They immediately evacuated.

Every part of his story, he gives credit where credit is due. He credits the fire department for putting out the fire. The community for helping them rebuild.

Jent's family moved to Indianapolis. His treatment continued. Through the use of casts, braces and, on two occasions, Botox injections, Jent was able to learn to walk.

Jent recalls: "The casts were heavy on my feet and I would have to wear sandals with them. Because of this I would often smash my toes on the steps outside my house, because I couldn't lift my foot in time."

click to enlarge Jent on the blocks - SUBMITTED PHOTO
  • Jent on the blocks
  • Submitted Photo

Childhood wasn't always easy. Jent talks about being teased and picked on.

"I was mocked and made fun of several times," he says. "But I didn't listen to them, because they didn't know what I have gone through. It's because of my cerebral palsy [that] I received a scholarship, the Irma Dow Scholarship, from the United Cerebral Palsy Association of Greater Indiana. This along with my 21st Century Scholarship helped me go to college."

After graduating with honors from Herron High School in 2011, he went to Indiana State. There he graduated last May with a degree in political science. He was a manager for the ISU track/cross country teams, helping them win 11 conference championships.

After seeing a video of an athlete with CP competing, Jent reached out to U.S. Paralympics Track and Field High Performance Director Cathy Sellers. Things happened quickly from there. Then, a year ago, Jent traveled to Minnesota for the National Championships.

After being classed in the T-35 group — a group for athletes with severe cases of CP — he finished in second place in his first-ever race. That week, he was given the nickname "Jet" Jent. Although he didn't realize it right away, he had qualified for the Parapan Am Games in Toronto, where Jet ended up getting the silver medal in the 100 meters.

And that's where he earned his way onto the national team for which he'll run the 100m and 200m in Rio.

While he represents USA on his shirt, it's his adopted hometown of Indianapolis he represents. Jent was born in Fort Wayne, but it is Fletcher Place, The Cabaret at the Columbia Club and The Rathskeller that he loves. Fletcher Place is where his family settled here in Indianapolis. Jent grew up with the Virginia Ave. area, and is proud to be a part of the flourishing community.

click to enlarge Paralympian Jent ands Colts quarterback Andrew Luck - SUBMITTED PHOTO
  • Paralympian Jent ands Colts quarterback Andrew Luck
  • Submitted Photo
"We have welcomed new stores into our area: Calvin Fletcher coffee shop, Repeal, Tortas Sandwich Shop, Tappers, Spice Box and South of Chicago Pizza, which I worked at for several months," Jent says with pride. "I liked being a delivery driver, because it connected me to the city. The neighborhood wants places to succeed."

Going to work with his mom at The Cabaret at the Columbia Club is when Jent developed his deep love for theatre in Indianapolis.

"I was surrounded by the talents of Brenda Williams, Jimmy Gilford, [owner] Shannon Forsell and others. I would often watch the plays, musicals, from the balcony or from backstage. The places she worked were my personal playground."

Now it is home to the Ballet Theatre of Indiana, and he often attends their shows. "It had been 13 years, then going back to a place you spent five years at; as a kid, I got goosebumps. So many memories."

But no place in Indianapolis compares to The Rathskeller for Jent. That's where his mom met his stepdad, the person who introduced Jent to the world of running. It was at The Rathskeller where Jent discovered one of his favorite local bands, Dog Talk.

When Ayden "Jet" Jent lines up at the starting line in the 2016 Paralympic Games, he lines up for the United States of America, and he lines up for kids across the country with cerebral palsy.

"I want kids to know that you can still achieve your dreams," he says. And when the gun goes off Jent will run for the city of Indianapolis, the city that he loves.

"When you put that jersey on, you get to represent something more than just yourself."


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