Ellen surprises UA runner on TV show

By: Nyssa Kruse
Published: Wednesday, January 29, 2020
Arkansas' Hunter Woodhall runs during the third heat of the men's 400 meters Friday, April 27, 2018, during the National Relay Championships at John McDonnell Field in Fayetteville.
Photo by Ben Goff
Arkansas' Hunter Woodhall runs during the third heat of the men's 400 meters Friday, April 27, 2018, during the National Relay Championships at John McDonnell Field in Fayetteville.

A University of Arkansas track and field athlete appeared Monday on The Ellen DeGeneres Show and was presented with a ceremonial check for $20,000 aimed at helping him get to the 2020 Paralympic Games in Tokyo this summer.

Hunter Woodhall, a sprinter from Syracuse, Utah, signed with Arkansas in 2017. As a double amputee, he runs using prosthetic legs and competes for the Razorbacks alongside runners without disabilities.

An Arkansas spokesman said UA officials are checking with the SEC and NCAA to verify that Woodhall can accept the $20,000 and be in compliance with NCAA rules. He is competing for the Razorbacks this season as a junior.

On the world stage, Woodhall won silver and bronze medals in the 2016 Paralympics and is hoping to make the 2020 team. The U.S. Paralympic Trials will be held June 25-28 in Minneapolis, with qualifers advancing to compete in Tokyo on Aug. 25-Sept. 6.

"That was kind of the pinnacle, the payoff, to all that hard work I'd been put into before," Woodhall told DeGeneres of competing in the 2016 Games. "I was actually able to win a silver and a bronze medal for my country, which is amazing."

Woodhall was born with fibular hemimelia, a congenital bone deficiency that prevents both fibulas -- the calf bones -- from forming.

After doctors told Woodhall's parents he wouldn't walk on two legs, the decision was made to amputate both limbs below the knee when he was 11 months old. He received his first prosthetic legs a few months later.

Woodhall has gained a large following across social media platforms. He has more than 102,000 followers on Instagram and 1 million followers on TikTok. At least one of his videos on the platform has more than 6 million views.

DeGeneres asked him to make a couple of TikTok videos on the show, and during the second video she presented him with the oversized check for $20,000.

The pair discussed on the show the bias some people feel toward Woodhall for competing while using prosthetic legs.

In 2015, an NCAA committee overseeing the sport ruled athletes with prosthetics do not have an advantage over the rest of the field based on research by Alena Grabowski, a physiology assistant professor at the University of Colorado, which showed amputee athletes cannot push off the ground with as much force as athletes without disabilities.

Still, Woodhall said he receives negative comments and hopes to show people he's not a person or athlete with a disability, but that he is an athlete, period.

Democrat-Gazette staff writer Bob Holt contributed to this article.

Sports on 01/29/2020

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