You are here

How Paralympian April Holmes Turned Tragedy Into Gold

A close but victorious finish for April in the Beijing 100m event. (Photo courtesy of

April Holmes was a 400m specialist in high school and a collegiate All-American at Norfolk Sate University when an unfortunate accident in 2001 changed her life forever. April was the last person boarding a train running late to New York City when the driver closed the doors on her, causing a tragic accident in which her left leg to be amputated below the knee.

As she lay in her hospital bed recovering, she was given a glimpse of hope when her surgeon shared information on the Paralympic Games. April liked the idea of a new challenge and immediately set three goals: to represent the U.S., be the fastest in the world and win a gold medal. April has been working hard ever since to persevere through tragedy and her disability, all the while becoming a role model—both on and off the track.

We caught up with the word record-breaking athlete as she prepares to complete her fifth consecutive undefeated season in London’s 100 meter race. Here’s what she had to say:

Dreams Really Can Come True. Hard work certainly pays off. April trained to be a gold medalist but certainly did not expect it, even after breaking three world records in Athens and taking home the bronze. April rightfully earned her place on the top of the podium in Beijing. For April, realizing the national anthem was playing because of her achievement and adding to the U.S. medal count was a really special moment.

A Day in the Life. Leading up to the Paralympics, April practiced at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Walt Disney World six to eight hours a day, mixing up track workouts with the weight room. Weeks before the Games were focused more on specialized training sessions, ranging from an hour and a half to two hours, where she worked on the technical stuff. “It’s a mindset now of making sure your brain retains the technical adjustments…that’s what makes the difference when it’s hundredths of seconds.” According to April, it’s this kind of regimen that helps with muscle-memory, while building mental strength and confidence levels too.

Music Confessions. April enjoys diverse playlists featuring her favorites Usher, Jay Z and Mary J. Blige. To get her need for speed ready to go, April sings along during her warm-up and revealed that Phil Collin’s “In The Air Tonight” is often on repeat.

Runner Tips. “Find a great pair of shoes, good music, a good trail and get out there and move your feet. So many people just struggle with getting out there. Once you start a plan and start moving it’s so much easier. Just go for it and you’ll be surprised at how much easier it’ll be once you’re doing it.”

Mantra. “Be great. Anyone can win. The question is, can you be great?”

While not kicking butt on the track, April runs the April Holmes Foundation, a non-profit organization that helps give scholarships and medical equipment to those with physical and learning disabilities. April hopes to use her MBA in Marketing to continue raising awareness of people with disabilities and is interested in a sports marketing career, where she can develop athletes’ brands and tell their stories.

April starts her London competition on this Saturday, September 1 in the first round of Women’s 100m, with the finals the following day. The 200m will take place on September 5 and 6. Follow her Games journey here.