Max Rohn Has Golden Expectations Ahead Of Parapans
by Ryan Wilson
Heading into the Parapan American Games, Max Rohn is as confident as he’s ever been.
“My expectations are to win (gold),” Rohn said. “(I’m just) going to do everything that I’ve trained.”
Rohn is now three months into his prep to throw the discus at Parapans, which will take place Nov. 17-26 in Santiago, Chile.
Rohn is putting in four to six hours of training four days a week at the Chula Vista Elite Training Center in California. Leading up to Chile, he’ll bring down the number of reps in lifting and increase the weight; that way, his muscles are conditioned to throw the furthest in competition.
Rohn competes in the F64 class, which is stacked with American throwing talent. At the world championships this past July, Americans David Blair and Jeremy Campbell finished first and second. One of Campbell or Blair has won gold in the discus F64 at the last four Paralympics as well.
Neither of those athletes will compete at Parapans, however, giving Rohn a clearer path to the podium. Regardless of the competition, Rohn is staying focused on the ultimate prize in Chile.
“My plan going into Chile is, don’t deviate from the plan,” he said. “Don’t do anything new. Stick to my diet, my recovery and stretching mobility.”
Rohn is finding extra meaning in representing the United States. In January 2009, he was deployed to Iraq as an active-duty Navy corpsman with the Police Transition Team. A few months into his deployment, a vehicle he was in was struck by a rocket-propelled grenade.
Rohn endured multiple injuries to his body and had 10 surgeries to try to save his right leg.
During these surgeries, Rohn was introduced to adaptive sports at the Warrior Games and, with limited functioning, attempted to play wheelchair basketball. That’s when he realized just how talented wheelchair basketball players are.
“The people who play are skillful at the different aspects of the game,” Rohn said. “If you’re not good in a wheelchair, you just don’t move.”
He also got “rolled over” playing in a game, and it sent him to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Maryland, where he decided to amputate his right leg and start fresh. Three months later, he was back in competition at the Warrior Games.
This time, Rohn competed in track and field.
“Turns out I’m not fast at anything,” he said. “But I am big, and I’m kind of strong. Throwing just fit very well.”
Even after finding a sport that he gelled with, Rohn did not anticipate how much additional energy was required to move his body with a prosthetic.
“It’s frustrating, because you think that you’re able to do the things that you could in the past,” Rohn said. “Mentally, you might be there, but physically, you can notice a drop off in performance just because you’re exerting more effort.
“Subconsciously, your body is going to try to aid to that side (with the amputation).”
Rohn said he allocates time in recovery of practices to help his right side stay healthy. Normally, Rohn said, he may show signs of more strength in the left side of his body than his right. When he’s at his peak level, like he is now, both sides of his body carry the same strength.
This was a valuable lesson he learned from his fellow adaptive athletes.
“There’s no one in the hospital that’s going to tell you that, because they simply don’t (know),” Rohn said. “They can get you to a certain point, but as far as high-performance sports, you need to go to a different level. The only way you find out is from other team guys.”
Much like the support he received in the military, Rohn is grateful for everyone who has helped him become the elite thrower that he is now. He said a gold medal at the Parapan Games would be a reflection of all that has been shared with him.
“When I win the gold, it’ll just be a product of the system,” he said. “It’s because of all the people who have helped me out along the way. All the doctors, nurses who took care of me, my friends and family that supported me this entire time.”
Ryan Wilson is a writer and independent documentary filmmaker from Champaign, Illinois. He is a freelance contributor to usparatf.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.