Emotional video shows Nike surprising a University of Oregon runner who has cerebral palsy with a professional contract

University of Oregon junior Justin Gallegos used a walker for the first few years of his life. Now he is Nike's first professional athlete with cerebral palsy.

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University of Oregon junior Justin Gallegos used a walker for the first few years of his life. Now he is Nike’s first professional athlete with cerebral palsy.
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YouTube/Elevation 0m

  • Cerebral palsy hasn’t stopped a University of Oregon junior named Justin Gallegos from aspiring to break the two-hour barrier in a half marathon.
  • Nike’s insight director, John Douglass, showed up at run-club practice to surprise Gallegos with a three-year professional running contract, making him Nike’s first professional athlete with cerebral palsy.
  • The advertising agency Elevation 0m released a moving video of Gallegos receiving the news Saturday – World Cerebral Palsy Day – that has gone viral.

Justin Gallegos has cerebral palsy – a condition that affects body movement and muscle coordination – but that hasn’t stopped the University of Oregon junior from pursuing his dream of breaking the two-hour barrier in a half marathon.

According to Anne Francis of Running magazine, Gallegos used a walker as a child but was able to improve his gait enough to walk without one after physical therapy. As a freshman in high school, the Santa Clarita, California, native began running for the cross-country team and strove to run with the UO Track Club in college.

Seven years later, Gallegos has signed a three-year running contract with Nike to become the brand’s first professional athlete with cerebral palsy.

“Growing up with a disability, the thought of becoming a professional athlete is as I have said before like the thought of climbing Mt. Everest,” Gallegos said in an Instagram post. “It is definitely possible, but the odds are most definitely not in your favor! Hard work pays off!”

Elevation 0m released a moving video of Gallegos receiving the news on World Cerebral Palsy Day that has since gone viral.

At his first meet with the UO Track Club, one of Gallegos’ Nike Pegasus shoes fell off just 50 meters into the race. According to Romaine Soh at Oregon’s student newspaper, the Daily Emerald, Gallegos stopped to pick up the shoe but continued running with it in his hands until teammates coaxed him to stop to put it back on.

Gallegos is no stranger to press coverage, having been featured in ESPN and FloTrack pieces. The coverage caught the attention of John Truax, a footwear marketing manager in Nike’s running department, and soon the two were working to develop running shoes for people with disabilities. The FlyEase running shoe – which boasts an innovative lace system and zippered heel intended to make it easy to put on and remove – is sold in men’s, women’s, and kids’ sizes.

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Gallegos almost did not achieve his goal of attending the University of Oregon because of cost. Truax worked with university officials to help him find finding, and Gallegos’ GoFundMe page has raised $11,818.

In April of this year, Gallegos came in just 3 minutes, 49 seconds, past his dream mark at the Eugene Half Marathon. With Nike’s support, he should be running toward that dream for years to come.