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Valley track and field Paralympian has his eyes set on the Tokyo podium, hoping to bring home his first medal

When COVID forced the 2020 Tokyo Paralympic Games to postpone for a year, Erik Hightower said he took the extra time to train.

PHOENIX — After being pushed back a year because of COVID, the Paralympics are finally hitting the worldwide stage in Tokyo. They run from Aug. 24 to Sept. 5. And there are some incredible Arizona athletes competing in the games. 

Erik Hightower is one of Team USA's inspiring track and field Paralympians who calls Phoenix home. Hightower is top-ranked in the world in the 100M.

When COVID forced the 2020 Tokyo Paralympic Games to postpone for a year, Hightower said he took the extra time to train.

RELATED: Chandler man hopes to bring back Paralympics medal as member of US wheelchair rugby team

"Now having this extra year to prepare, I feel like I'm even better, more in shape, my mind is better," Hightower said. 

Hightower is from the Valley and is participating in track and field events, in the Tokyo Paralympics.

"The Paralympics are parallel to the Olympics," Hightower said. "So we train just as hard as the Olympians do. We get the same medals the Olympians do. We compete at the exact same venues."

The three-time Paralympian was born with spina bifida and has been wheelchair racing for more than a decade.

"It takes a lot of work to get to this level, but once you get here, it's definitely worth it," he said. 

Today, Hightower can't get enough of the sport. It's his full-time job. He's hoping all his hard work will finally pay off this year, with his eyes and goals set to make the podium for the first time.

RELATED: Here are the Arizonans competing in the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics

"This season has been my best season I've ever had," Hightower said. "My fastest times all year out of my whole career and everything."

He said COVID has changed his arrival and schedule so far in Tokyo.

"It's definitely a process," Hightower said. "We had to test 72 hours and then 24 hours prior to travel and while we're here, we have to test every single day."

But even with all of the extra COVID testing, on top of prepping mentally and physically for the games, Hightower believes Tokyo will be his year.

"I feel very confident this year, great things are going to happen," he said.

Hightower will be in Tokyo for the Paralympic games until Sept. 6.

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