Life can be what one makes of it. Determination, hard work and a positive attitude can oftentimes change hugely unfair negatives into equally uplifting positives.
Such is the case of one Jason Wening, a shining example of these traits. Let's say it straight on-Jason was born without two fingers on his left hand and without the lower portion of both legs. But those congenital defects never slowed him down. In fact, Jason Wening may be WPI's most celebrated swimmer of all time.
Jason was a four-year letter-winner. He swam at the New Englands all four years. He was a continual solid point producer, and he captained the team as a senior.
Before, during and after his WPI years, Jason swam in special races among paraplegics, and that is really where he made his mark. Still today he holds four world records: in the 400 free, 800 free, 1500 free and 400 IM among paraplegics. Moreover, he won six medals in three separate Paralympic Games-three golds and a bronze in Barcelona in 1992, a gold in Atlanta in 1996, and a gold in Sydney in 2000.
In 1996, his junior year at WPI, the city of Worcester proclaimed September 18 Jason Wening Day, following his triumphant return from Atlanta.
"Watching a 1000-yard freestyle that included Jason was never boring," says his WPI coach all four years, Whit Griffith. "Because he could not push off the walls as his competitors, Jason started off in last place. But he would always reel in his opponents, one by one. It was not a case of 'would he?' but 'when would he?'"
"He was always my best performer in practice," adds Griffith. "With Jason in the pool, it was impossible not to be inspired."
Although retired from competition, Jason continues to make his mark-he is a research engineer at the University of Illinois-Chicago, where he runs a biomechanics lab that is gathering data on "walking and balance" among the elderly. Sometime in the not-too-distant future, he plans to help in the advancement of making prosthetics-something near and dear to his heart.
The motto of the 1996 Paralympic Games was "Triumph of the Human Spirit." Without question, that phrase epitomizes this world recordholder. It is indeed a great privilege to induct Jason Wening into WPI's Athletic Hall of Fame.