WEST CHESTER, Ohio – In four years, Fairfield resident Austin Osner has gone from an anxious 10-year-old depressed over his disability and unsure of himself to an elite Taekwondo performer.
Born with a left arm, but no hand nor forearm on his right side, he would tire of the stares, comments and questions about his condition (amniotic band syndrome). Public school life became difficult. Once, when his mother asked him what he wanted for Christmas, he replied, “friends”.
From there, Kristin McGinn’s friends took to social media and word spread somehow to Wichita, Kansas. A doctor there and other well-doers flew McGinn, Austin and his sister Jordan to Kansas to fit him with a prosthetic arm. Later, a myoelectric arm was tried.
In the end, neither was satisfying to Austin.
“It’s more of a hindrance than a help to him because he’s been without it so long,” McGinn said. “It’s kind of like putting somebody on roller skates for the first time, you don’t know what to do with them. He doesn’t wear one.”
Stepping on a welcome mat
What was satisfying was starting Taekwondo with his sister by way of a Wounded Warriors athletic program. Suddenly, Osner had a skill, confidence and a new outlook. Learning of former MLB pitcher Jim Abbott and NFL player Shaquem Griffin who succeeded with similar disabilities also helped.
“I started out doing it for self-defense,” Osner said. “I eventually got into sparring and competing. It helped me get to know myself more, go past some limits I set for myself and interact with other people and show I can do as much as they can.”
Now 14 years old, Austin Osner trains in West Chester and Dayton, with the occasional trip to Michigan and to competitions in the U.S. He also has a personal trainer and a yoga instructor. Blessed with tremendous flexibility, he is now a black belt who has historically sparred with able-bodied competitors. To earn the ranking, he had to break a concrete block with his only hand.
“Hearing about him (Osner) and his disability and seeing him overcome that is tremendous,” Ian Wiesman, headmaster of Honor First Taekwondo in West Chester said. “I love seeing kids overcome their disabilities and work through what they have and work with what they’ve got.”
Moving to a bigger stage
Through his talent and travels, Osner was discovered in Michigan by coach Brad Deminck who specializes in para athletes. Thus, McGinn totes her kids to Grand Haven, outside of Grand Rapids about six times per year. The ultimate goal comes in 2024 as Austin hopes to qualify for the Paralympics which will be held in Paris, France.
“I was fighting able-body, starting this year I’m fighting para now as well,” Osner said. “It’s always been a challenge but my coach in Michigan has helped me adapt.”
Added McGinn, “I think people underestimate him. When you size up your opponent, you kind of go, ‘I got this in the bag,’ and they don’t. He’s been competing against able-bodied competitors for nearly four years.”