The Journal Gazette
Wednesday, May 01, 2019 1:00 am

Paralympian ends career here, where journey began

ELIZABETH WYMAN | For The Journal Gazette

Fort Wayne will always be special to Ayden Jent.

The one-time track and field Paralympian was born here – three months early and with Cerebral Palsy – and spent the first few months of his life in newborn intensive care unit at Lutheran Hospital.

He grew up in Indianapolis but Jent, 26, found it fitting to end his Paralympic track and field career in the city where he was born at the Turnstone Endeavor Games, which were held Saturday.

“I had been going back and forth about retirement for a long time and it just kind of hit me after (the Mt. San Antonio College Relays) that it was time to move on, so I decided to make this one my last one,” Jent said.

Jent attended Turnstone numerous times throughout his nearly five-year Paralympic career and admires all the center does for athletes. That and the timing worked out for these Games to be his last.

“I really love what Turnstone is doing for adaptive sports and getting kids involved and being active,” Jent said.

As he lined up for his final competitive 100-meter race at Homestead High School, a wave of emotion hit him.

“My friend David (Kirk) is actually the person in charge of this and he was taking a picture of me and he was like 'The Great Jent,'” he said. “ I tried to get myself back into the racing mindset, but realizing this one was going to be my last one was just bittersweet.”

David Prince just edged out Jent at the line, but that didn't sour the moment and keep him from reflecting on all of his accomplishments.

“It's just fun to have family come up and see old teammates, and to see all the smiling kids faces, and being active, running around,” he said. “It's a really family atmosphere here.”

Jent, who still lives in Indianapolis, represented Team USA in the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games. He placed fifth in the 100 and 200. He competed in the World Championships in 2015 and 2017 in Doha, Quatar, where he had his best finish – fifth in the 200.

“The fact that it opened the doors and I've been traveling the world with the team and I've gotten to be a tourist after the fact,” Jent said of what's made his career so special. “Diving into the culture of the different countries and cities and meeting all my new teammates and friends that I've made over the years has been a true blessing and an honor.”

An Indiana State graduate, Jent served as the manager for the Sycamores' track and field program and credits the team with inspiring him to run at the Paralympic level after graduation.

“If it wasn't for Indiana State, I wouldn't have started my journey,” Jent said. “To see how hard they worked every day in and out and to talk with them about training and see their work ethic really inspired me to push on and try to make the Paralympics.”

While he's stepping away from competition, Jent, who's a public information officer in Indianapolis, is staying involved with the sport as a Paralympic ambassador. He hopes to give back to the sport that's given so much to him.

“I think it's a way for people to explore what they want in life and find out who they are,” he said. “That gives you a sense that you're not alone in your life; it's given me an amazing chapter in my life that I'll never forget.”

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