Columbia Native Strives for Olympic Goals

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COLUMBIA - Being named an Olympian is one of the top honors an athlete can earn. One Columbia native has made what might have been an obstacle into an opportunity to realize a dream of joining Team USA.

Every morning, you'll find the Missouri wheelchair basketball team practicing on the courts of Mizzou Recreation Complex. On that team - you will find Carter Arey, a Columbia native who dreamed of playing for Mizzou since he could remember. But that dream was going to have some challenges along the way - the earliest one coming when he was four.

Carter was born with proximal fimeral focal deficitony - which means he was had short right femar. Arey explained, "they could either lengthen that bone with a series of surgeries or they could amputate my right foot and give me a prostetic leg. I never really looked back." Carter didn't let the prostetic leg slow him down - he competed with everyone else and played three "able body" sports all the way up until he graduated from Rock Bridge High School.

Finally, with a little luck, Carter got an opportunity to play for the school he loved. He told us, "one day I headed into -- I snuck into the Mizzou rec, which was a great mistake because I met Coach Ron Lykins." Lykins explained, "it was by chance actually, we had another recruit on campus that day. As I was walking down the stairs I saw this kid with a prostetict leg. Big, tall athletic looking kid and I was like ok, I'll go find him later.. And then I thought, I better talk to him now. A couple days later we were working out at together at one end of the court and he was playing basketball and he came down and said 'yeah I'm kind of interested."

Arey said, "I talked to him that week and I said -- I remember clearly saying 'I'm not going to do this if I don't do it all out. Looking back on it, I don't think there could be a bigger day in my life that could have directed me in a different path like that day did."

For the past three years, Carter has been a part of the Mizzou wheelchair basketball team. This past season, carter led the team in 13 different categories and set new school records in three of those. Carter now holds the school record for number of field goals made at 251, number of free throws made at 71 and points in a season at 591. "This is the funnest sport I've every played and it's hard. It's the hardest sport I've ever played and that's kind of what has been driving me so much the last three years just cause I wasn't as good as and that bothered me to the core."

Coach Lykins said, "each year he's gotten better. He's only played three years and it's really a remarkable rise that this kid has had. It goes to show the talent level that he has and shows how hard he works at it. He's not near reaching what his potential is yet." In January, the National Wheelchair Basketball Association named Mizzou Coach Ron Lykins as the Head Coach for the USA men's team.

Four months later, Carter got a chance to join his coach at the next level when he was invited to tryout for Team USA. "It's exciting," Carter said, "to go to the Olympic Training Center - which is beyond words cool for me because  grew up thinking about Team USA. You know every kid lays on their floor watching the Olympics and and drooling over how fast Michael Johnson is or how cool it is to see that on their chest and what it represents and the national anthem and all that. Then you get a flood of emotions and then to get an opportunity to do something that neat, that special would be an honor."

Tryouts for the USA Men's Wheelchair Basketball team will run Tuesday through Sunday in Colorado Springs.