Nike Signs First Professional Athlete with Cerebral Palsy: Who Is Runner Justin Gallegos?

Justin Gallegos is a runner at the University of Oregon

Nike has signed Justin Gallegos as the sportswear brand’s first professional athlete with cerebral palsy — and a new video shows the emotional moment that the runner got the news.

Gallegos, a runner on the club team at the University of Oregon, had just finished up a race when John Douglass, Nike’s insights director, surprised him with a contract, Yahoo! Sports reported.

In Elevation 0m’s video, Douglass says to a group of runners, “I just wanted to share something with you guys. One of your teammates has been working pretty hard the last couple years, and Nike has recognized that. So today I am giving him the Nike contract [to be an] official Nike athlete.”

As the group applauds, Gallegos tearfully hugs Douglass and cries on his knees.

Gallegos wrote on Instagram, “Today on world Cerebral Palsy Awareness Day, I reached a milestone in my running journey! Today I made Nike history and became the very first athlete with Cerebral Palsy to sign a contract with Nike! You don’t realize how realistic and emotional your dreams are until they play out before your very eyes!”

He continued, “Signing this contract was a huge success for me and I would not have made it without my friends and family and teammates! This was perhaps the most emotional moment in my seven years of running! Growing up with a disability, the thought of becoming a professional athlete is as I have said before like the thought of climbing Mt. Everest! It is definitely possible, but the odds are most definitely not in your favor!”

“Hard work pays off! Hundreds of miles, blood, sweat, and tears has lead me here along with a few permanent scars!” Gallegos said. “I was once a kid in leg braces who could barely put on foot in front of the other! Now I have signed a three-year contract with Nike Running! … Thank you everyone for helping show the world that there is No Such Thing As A Disability!”

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According to a previous Nike release, Gallegos began running as a high school freshman in California.

In May, Nike released a video for its Breaking2 campaign featuring Gallegos and runner Eliud Kipchoge. Gallegos participated in his first half-marathon in April and clocked in at 2:03:49, according to Yahoo! Sports.

“No human is limited,” Kipchoge says in the campaign video. “It’s not about the legs.”

“It’s about the heart and the mind,” Gallegos adds.

In May, CNN reported that Gallegos was collaborating with Nike on shoes for people with disabilities.“I’m not doing this just for me,” Gallegos said at the time. “It means a lot knowing that I have a say and a voice representing the shoes that potentially thousands and thousands of disabled people are going to be putting on their feet. I have a tremendous opportunity here.”

In another new Instagram, Gallegos wrote, “I’m still at loss for words! Thank to everyone for the love and the support not only the past couple days but the last seven years of my life! Beyond blessed to officially represent the swoosh! Still can’t believe I made Nike history! Very excited! Big things are yet to come! Trust in the process! And trust in God!”

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