MILWAUKEE — Fifteen-year-old Gianni Quintero can remember the moment he found out he was no longer an alternate for the 2022 World Abilitysport Games in Thailand.
The Marquette University High School sophomore says he checked his phone every morning for several weeks until he received the email he was hoping for in late August.
"I checked it, and it said that I was accepted to go and race with Team USA for Thailand," Quintero beamed.
After earning top-three finishes in seven different events at the 2023 Move United Hartford Nationals this past July, Move United's World Abilitysport delegation reached out to Quintero's mom to see if her son was interested in the possibility of going to Thailand.
"It's motivational," Tiela Quintero smiled. "He keeps us going every day and shows us that his disability doesn't define anything."
The 15-year-old is one of 22 Americans selected for this year’s World AbilitySport Games.
It's an opportunity that was hard to imagine nine years ago when Quintero was diagnosed with transverse myelitis, which is an inflammation of part of the spinal cord. The neurological disorder left his left leg paralyzed.
“He was a little boy in a hospital bed, and I'm bawling when I got the diagnosis," Tiela recalled." He's just like, it's okay, mom. Everything's going to be fine.”
Fast forward to present day, he would tell you he's doing better than just fine.
While he's only been competing in wheelchair track for a little more than a year, Quintero rewrote the Hilltopper history books this past spring.
"We started seeing these times going wait a minute, this is really fast," head track and field coach Nicole Williams remembered. "When you start breaking school records on your first try... We knew we were working with someone special.”
As Quintero looks forward to hopefully competing at the Paralympics one day, his message to others is simple: No dream is too big.
"Do what you want to do," he stated.
“He's shown us some amazing things, and he's not done yet," Tiela smiled. "He's still got so much more to accomplish in his life… and he just keeps pushing.”
Quintero is one of three Wisconsinites that will be representing the United States this December at the WorldAbility Sports games, including Lucas Jundt (Kenosha) and Lily Rosenthal (Sun Prairie).
The games take place Dec. 1-9 in Nakhon Ratchasima, Thailand.