'Part of a team': Paralympian makes Madison home as he prepares for Paralympics
On the surface, this is a story about a world champion and Paralympic gold medalist making the Madison area his home for a month.
But beyond that, it shows that teamwork is important, even if you don't play the same sport.
Trust is one of the most valuable commodities for a trainer and an athlete, and can take years to develop. For the unlikely pairing of Kevyn Feiner and Mikey Brannigan, they've had four weeks together.
“We have one thing in common, and that's a passion for the sport that we do,” says Feiner. “Mine happens to be baseball, his happens to be track. However, we still have to work the same way. We have to have the same passion. We still have to do the work in the weight room to make us successful in whatever we are playing. That's the mutual thing that we have in common. That's why it's easy to hang out together and do the things we need to do together.“
Feiner is a former pro baseball player, and trainer at the prairie athletic club. Mikey is a world champion and Paralympian miler, who is autistic.
"Just a passion and a love to run,” says Brannigan. “And a love to work hard and to not give up."
Brannigan’s running coach, Sonja Robinson says “he already has a gold medal, but he wants more. He already owns the world record, but he wants to run faster."
Robinson brought Brannigan to Madison to work with specialists from the Center for Healthy Minds on how to train his mind to work at the highest level, just like his body does.
While there, she's found Feiner’s guidance to also be a refreshing change.
“Kevyn has a way of explaining what needs to be done,” Robinson says. “It's not track-speak. It's just sports, good foundational sports-speak which works for Mikey. Even though Mikey has been running for a long time, his skill development still needs to continue as if he's a very young athlete because of the autism, lack of coordination, lack of natural balance."
Feiner says that "the thing that I’ve seen from Mikey the most is his will to win and his determination. He won't let anybody beat him in a race. If he doesn't do something right, he wants to do it right, right away. He can't get back to the starting block fast enough to get better at it. And that's what a true champion is. Getting better, and not being happy with just average."
“Until a month ago, we didn't know each other from a can of paint,” Robinson says. “But I really feel like he is a part of team Mikey. He is an integral part of us on our road to Tokyo and getting that gold medal."
One of Robinson’s favorite moments during their time here came this past weekend when she and Mikey did a presentation at the Prairie Athletic Club for Families, several of whom have children on the autism spectrum.
The next day, one of those kids came back to the club, and Feiner made sure to include him in his work out with Brannigan.
As for the Paralympics coming up in September, they say they don't just want to win. They want to make a statement by running even faster than Brannigan did in 2016.