Tokyo Paralympics

‘I'm Going to Tokyo': North Texas Man to Compete in Paralympics

NBCUniversal, Inc.

On a ranch between Dublin and Comanche, Michael Godfrey is busy practicing table tennis at least six hours a day with a coach he brought in from Argentina.

He's intense about it because he will soon leave for Tokyo, to compete in the Paralympics, which begin soon after the Olympics end.

"When you are playing for your country, and there's other people playing for their countries, let me tell you what, your heart gets to palpitating a little bit just like crawling over those bucking chutes riding those bulls,” he said.

Godfrey knows about riding bulls.

That's how he broke his neck at a rodeo in El Paso in 1996 in a freak accident.

"I got on the end of my arm and had the rope jerked out of my hand,” he said.

Godfrey has been in a wheelchair ever since.

But it doesn't stop him from playing table tennis, commonly known as ping pong, which he started playing as a kid growing up in Arlington.

"What I like about it best is not any ball is the same,” he said. “Kind of like playing golf or riding bulls. Every shot is different. It's never the same."

He modified his wheelchair to help him move around fast.

Even seated, he has a command over much of the table.

He jokes he was lucky to qualify for the Paralympics, especially at age 56.

"I got in by the stars baby,” he said.

But now with all the stars aligned, he's confident he'll win gold.

"I've already been programmed in my mind, when I win, I'll be crying like a baby,” Godfrey said.

The Paralympics feature a number of sports in addition to table tennis, including wheelchair basketball, sitting volleyball and even judo.

Outside his kitchen window years ago, Godfrey set up the Olympic rings as a reminder of where he wanted to go.

It's no longer just a goal.

"Look where I'm going now,” he said. “I'm going to Tokyo!"

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