Kalamazoo teenager determined to compete in 2020 Paralympics

Posted at 6:58 PM, Mar 16, 2018
and last updated 2018-03-16 19:05:10-04

KALAMAZOO, Mich. — As soon as Nick Nieboer found out about a competitive hand-cycling race in Saginaw, he said to himself "I wanna do this." His doctor told him about it during a clinic visit in Ann Arbor last spring. When he got home, he signed up. On June 17, 2017 he competed.

“I went into this thinking I’ll place maybe 15th, I won’t do very well,” said Nieboer who was born with spina bifida. “I ended up getting third.”

That day, Nieboer completed the Junior National Qualifier 10K race in 00:24:38, he said. He competed against 20 other men and took home the bronze. A few days later, he decided he wanted to compete in 2020 Paralympics.

“I’ve seen the Paralympics on TV before and I always was just like ‘man I wish I could be there,'” Nieboer said. “I wish I could be on TV and have a claim to fame like that.”

The 19-year-old has been working hard to get there, he said. Since he won the race, he’s been working out at least five times a week at a local gym and watching his diet.

“Last year I was 161 pounds and this year I am down to 120,” said Nieboer, who’s also a senior at Kalamazoo Central High School. “I’ve lost 41 pounds and that was the turning point for me. You know I was like man I need to stay in shape.”

He has. However it’s been a long road for him to gain the confidence needed to play sports, he said. He spent his childhood years in a walker and later a wheelchair, which is something he’s enjoyed. He’s played basketball and tennis but had to stop because he suffers from motor ticks, which makes his body shake uncontrollably at times.

“At times I was so down that I didn’t want to do anything,” said Nick who also battles anxiety. “I didn’t want to get out of the house. I didn’t want, you know, go anywhere. But at a certain point I just was like ‘alright, that’s it.’”

Since last summer’s big win, he’s now looking at competing in a few races in Flint and Detroit. However his ultimate goal is Tokyo.

“It’s time to go,” said Nieboer. “It’s time to get to where you want to be. That is kind of where I’m at right now.

***Nieboer set up a GoFundMe page to raise money to purchase a competitive bike to help him get to Tokyo. If you’d like make a donation, click here.***