In 2016, David Brown smashed a record at the Rio Paralympics and became the first blind man to run the 100-meter race in under 11 seconds. Now, the sprinter is back to defend his title in Tokyo.
The 28-year-old is eager to get another gold medal for Team USA, and he's been working hard to achieve that goal. But he's also aware that winning isn't everything, even at the Paralympics.
"If I get a world record, if I get a gold medal, then great, but you're gonna see me give everything that I have and represent my country to the fullest my capabilities,” he told TODAY.
Brown runs in the T-11 class, a classification reserved for the highest level of vision impairment. At only 15 months old, he was diagnosed with Kawasaki disease, a condition that eventually led to glaucoma.
By the age of 3, Brown had lost eye sight in his left eye. Later on, at 13, he lost sight in his right eye. Naturally, he took the news pretty hard.
"One minute, I'm able to see, the next minute, I'm not. It put me into a very deep depression," he recalled.
When he was attending the Missouri School for the Blind, Brown got involved in wrestling and then running.
"When I was able to do these sports, I went to a whole different level and just tapped into something to help pull myself out of those darkest places,” he explained.
After winning an essay writing competition, Brown had the opportunity to attend the 2008 Beijing Paralympic Games and was inspired by the incredible athletes.
"I saw the races and I'm like, 'Hey, I saw how fast they went. You know what, I think I can do that.' That's where the dream began for me,” he said.
Brown fueled his passion into training as a sprinter and in 2014 he started working with a running guide, Jerome Avery. Once they got together, it didn't take long for the two to set a world record.
In Rio in 2016, he ran the 100 meters in 10.92 seconds, a record that still stands.
Brown and Avery have been working side-by-side for seven years. They run tethered together, barely six inches apart.
But when Brown hits the track in Tokyo, though, he won't have Avery by his side since the runner suffered an injury that's put him on the sidelines. So if he does take home a gold once again, he'll do so with a new guide.
"It was a very tough decision to switch guides, and a very, very, very saddening one at the same time, because of course, me and Jerome have been running together for a long time," Brown said.
Still, Avery will surely be there in spirit and Brown is ready to take the pair's past success to the next level in Tokyo.
"I've had so much success already within this realm of sport and it's very humbling to me and to everybody who's looking up to me, blind as well as sighted alike," he said. "I just want to let them know, especially the blind community, that this is definitely possible."