Steven Toyoji wore the UA's red and blue colors in the late 2000s as a racer on the school’s wheelchair track and road racing team.
And, his uniform’s colors didn’t change much when he became a member of the U.S. Paralympics National Team in 2008.
Toyoji competed at the Beijing games in the 400-meter and 800-meter tracks, as well as marathon races.
But his hopes of making it to the 2012 games in London were derailed by an injury.
“I suffered a broken femur in 2011, which kind of set things back a little more,” Toyoji said. “That was a bit frustrating, but I was lucky enough to meet the right people and get back into it.”
Toyoji suffers from a rare neurological disease called transverse myelitis, which left him partially paralyzed for the majority of his life.
Because he does not stand on his legs very often, that broken femur took much longer to heal, leaving him on the sideline for 9 months.
That injury left Toyoji with very little time to prepare for the 2012 Paralympics.
Undeterred, he immediately began training for the 2016 games, and he’s working his way towards that goal this weekend in Lyon, France.
“Right now, we’re over here for the IPC World Championships for track and field,” Toyoji said. “I will be competing in the 400, 800 and 1,500-meter as a T52.”
T52 athletes have functioning arms and shoulders, they may have problems in their fingers, and little or no function in the legs or midsection.
Toyoji, like many Paralympic athletes, does not have the advantage of training full-time.
He works with autistic children in California’s Santa Clara Unified School District, which means he has to squeak training as an elite-level athlete in with work.
In his mind, those priorities seem to be the other way around though.
“It is difficult, having to worry about working and all that other stuff,” Toyoji said. “Luckily, I’ve been able to meet a lot of really passionate coaches who are willing to work around my schedule.”
He remains hopeful of his major goal: competing and hopefully winning at the 2016 Paralympics Games in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil.
The men’s T52 1500-meter final is Friday morning at 9:04 a.m. Arizona time.
Toyoji’s next race, the 800-meter final, is at 8:10 a.m. on Sunday.
The 400-meter semifinal races are next Friday 2:30 a.m., with the final on Saturday at 9:16 a.m.
The Paralympic World Championships can be watched on YouTube.