EAST NORTHPORT, N.Y. – Michael Brannigan, 19, is one of the fastest runners, and he just happens to have autism.
Brannigan of East Northport, New York will be representing the the United States in the T20 1500-meter final at the Rio Paralympic Games on September 13.
Brannigan is the first runner with a T20 Paralympic classification to break the 4-minute mile. During the Paralympic Trials, Brannigan ran a mile in 3:50.05, according to Runner’s World.
NBC News reports Brannigan was diagnosed with autism at age 3. His mom says he went from walking to running, always filled with excess energy.
When Brannigan was 7, his parents found a running program for kids with special needs, and they realized their son had a gift.
“Every time I brought him to a race or a practice, he was just a regular kid. And all the other stuff that goes on, it all goes away when he’s out on the track,” dad Kevin Brannigan told NBC News.
He is currently studying a community college and says he’s looking forward to the Paralympic Games.
“Now I see everything as a gift. Mikey is perfect,” said mom Edie Brannigan. “Autistic people can be elite athletes.”