Wheelchair sports pro: ‘There’s a lot of ability in a disability’

Grand Rapids

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — While others might see a disability as an obstacle, Lee Montgomery has discovered an opportunity. 

“If I can share and encourage or make someone feel all excited about life, then that’s what it’s all about,” Montgomery told 24 Hour News 8 Friday. 

Born with a birth defect, his legs were amputated when he was just 3 years old. But at age 14, he discovered wheelchair basketball at Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Center in Grand Rapids, and everything changed. 

“When you tell me I can’t do it? Well, that just gave me a challenge right there,” Montgomery, now 61, explained. 

That attitude has propelled him to a massively successful sports career. He’s competed internationally in tennis, volleyball, and in basketball. In 2015, he was inducted into the National Wheelchair Basketball Association Hall of Fame. 

“Wheelchair sports, like I said, was a gate-opener to me: To start accepting who I am,” Montgomery said. 

Now he’s also helping others accept themselves by coaching young athletes at Mary Free Bed.

Next week, Montgomery is taking his mentorship out west, managing the wheelchair basketball competition at the Department of Defense Warrior Games in Colorado Springs. About 300 injured military members and veterans from four countries are set to compete.

“I always respect our men and women going out and protecting us. And I always wanted to be that person,” Montgomery explained. “But with my disability, I wasn’t able to enlist. So now, I’m part of the service. Because I’m in there sharing my life story with them. I’m in there teaching.”

Montgomery started coaching at the Warrior Games in 2011. Ahead of this year’s competition, he’s being featured in a promotional video made by Dove Men + Care. The theme: “Trusted to Protect.”

“One of the things I do is protect our community, protect the sport, protect the kids,” Montgomery said. 

“I just want people to see, although I’ve lived a rough life, I didn’t let it hold me down. I want them to see that there’s a lot of ability in a disability.”

Montgomery is heading out west this weekend for Department of Defense Warrior Games, which run June 1-9. 

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