TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – Austin Cooper was involved in a horrible motorcycle accident less than 11 months ago. But now he’s among the hundreds of athletes competing in the Warrior Games here in Tampa.
“Thank you, sweetheart,” one female fan said after receiving an autograph from the Navy veteran, who already had seven medals hanging from his neck.
“Absolutely!” responded Cooper.
“Can we get a selfie?” she asked him.
“Oh, definitely!” he said to her.
Cooper, who served in the Navy for more than six years, possesses what he calls a “die living” attitude. He is determined to push himself to a higher standard regardless of the obstacles.
“I was home for about 12 hours and I was (doing) end of deployment things, running errands and a driver pulled out of a parking lot, cut me off while I was on my motorcycle,” he told 8 On Your Side’s Gabrielle Shirley. “I woke up five days later in the ICU. My back was broken, shattered everything in my face and skull. Miracle that I was alive actually.”
Cooper admitted he did not know how to process what had happened to him.
“I was athletic before and I had some goals for racing. Then to get setback that much, I thought, ‘Oh, I will still be good, still be good.’” he recalled. “And then I went through a point where I was like, ‘I am never going to be able to perform like I did.'”
The doubt doubled as fuel for a fast recovery. Cooper was involved in that accident less than 11 months ago.
“Surprisingly, now, I am running faster than I was before I was injured by more than one minute,” said Cooper.
He is competing in four different sports in the Warrior Games. Those sports include track, cycling, shooting and swimming. He still has seven more events ahead of him.
“If you have the mental willpower to push yourself and heal, you can do anything you want,” he said. “It is amazing.”
By the way, Cooper is not interested in taking a break.
“We are going to add to this on Wednesday,” he said as he looked down at the medals resting on his chest. “That is coming in next. We will go to road cycling and Team Navy is going to keep racking up the medal count.”
You can track Cooper’s inspirational journey by following him on Instagram at @adrenalinepro.