Hunter Woodhall, whose lower legs were amputated below the knees as a baby, is one of the most well-known Paralympic athletes in the world. And his list of accomplishments is as impressive as any able athlete on any spectrum of sports.
He won two medals at the 2016 Paralympic games in Rio de Janeiro, and is qualified in two events at next months games in Tokyo.
After breaking the state record in the 400 meter run in high school, he became the first double amputee to earn a Division I track scholarship to Arkansas, where he was a 3-time All-American.
“I’m really blessed to be on the (U.S. Paralympic) team, and be able to compete,” Woodhall told MTN Sports in a recent interview. “I just to put forth my best effort in all things.”
Away from the track, Woodhall is equally successful. He recently signed a pro contract with Champion, he runs a successful YouTube vlog series with his girlfriend Tara Davis, he owns an apparel business called Giant Hoodies.
He started a TikTok account in college and has amassed 2.6 million followers.
And he recently went viral following a moment he shared with Davis caught on camera, after she qualified for the Olympics in the long jump. Both Davis and Woodhall will head to Tokyo for the Olympic and Paralympic games a month apart.
“It was really, really emotional,” Woodhall said. “It was kind of the pinnacle of all the hard work we’ve put in and all the things we’ve done leading up to this point.”
Woodhall was born in Georgia and raised in Utah, but his roots can be traced back to Central Montana.
His father Steve is a 1983 graduate of Hobson, and his mother Barb hails from Grass Range.
“They met in Montana, and all of my extended family still lives in Montana,” Hunter said. “I’m always proud to have that as part of my roots and history. It’s really just been a big part of how I was brought up and how I was raised. The the culture and the values that come from that part of the country.”
His extended family includes the Woodhall family of Stanford, Montana. His first cousins are standout Denton-Geyser-Stanford athletes Dylan, Kade, Rhet and Adie Woodhall.
And his uncle, Steve’s brother, was Wyatt Woodhall - a longtime coach and pillar of the Central Montana community who passed away in May after a long battle with cancer.
“Wyatt is the most selfless person that has ever been in my life and that I've ever had the pleasure of knowing,” Hunter said. “He had such a big impact in my life. He was there from the time I was born and my parents were having to go through the decision to amputate my legs. He and the rest of the Woodhall family was there through that whole experience”
Hunter looked down, then smiled fondly.
“Even when he was sick and things weren’t easy for him, Wyatt would still focus on others and try to give the best to everyone,” Hunter said. “It didn’t matter if it was his family, his friends or even strangers. Wyatt was selfless.”
Wyatt was always there for his kids and his extended family, and it gives Hunter extra cause to compete his best at his second Paralympics games in Tokyo.
“I feel that he's looking down on me,” Hunter said. “I hope that I can perform well and make him proud.”
And Hunter and the rest of the Woodhall family know a thing or two about pride.
“I came from Stanford, Montana. There's 300 people in the town and that's where my family came from too,” Hunter said. “It doesn't matter who you are. It doesn't matter where you come from, it matters how much you're willing to work, how much you’re willing to sacrifice. So just find the goal and then get to work.”
Hunter is thrilled to represent Wyatt, the Woodhall family and the state they come from next month when the Paralympics start on August 24th. Hunter will compete in the 400m run and 100m dash in Tokyo.