IDAHO — From an orphan to a Paralympian, Boise Bombers Wheelchair Rugby player, Kory Puderbaugh is heading to his second Paralympic Games in Tokyo.
"It is a different type of excitement. It’s not an excitement of 'Oh my gosh I am going to the Paralympics.' I am going to get a job done with 11 other guys and all of the country's support,” he said.
Kory, AKA Spiggy, with the rest of Team USA's Wheelchair rugby team won a silver medal at the Rio Games in 2016. They lost to Australia in double overtime.
"I was disappointed when we didn’t clinch the gold,” Puderbaugh said.
Now, five years later the team headed to Tokyo is focused on redemption.
“That is our whole mission right now to bring home a gold medal. Everything else is secondary to that, but I am excited and hungry," Puderbaugh said. "Hungry to bring it home and then I'll be hungry for real food afterwards, haha."
But his story from an orphan to a two-time Paralympian is one of triumph, and overcoming great odds to become one of the best wheelchair rugby players in the world.
“He was abandoned at birth at a Polish orphanage. He lived there until he was almost 6 years old," John Cochrane, Kory's dad said. "He came to the United States the week or the week before 9/11, and he went to a Gabriel House in Florida."
After multiple foster homes and adoptive families, Cochrane saw Kory while he was on hallway duty at the middle school he teaches at, and the rest is history.
“I literally met him in the hallway at the middle school where I teach, so we took him into our home when he was just turning 15 years old," Cochrane said. "Just a skinny scrawny little guy, and to see him grow up and to be this level of an athlete over these short years it has been ten years that he has been with us is amazing.”
“To see him come up with not only his personal goals but to represent the country in a very patriotic way it really makes me feel proud of him,”
Since the day Kory found his forever family he's found a lot of passions including chess, wrestling and he has his pilot's license. But, this moment and opportunity to win gold is what he's been training so hard for.
"I am pretty much in peak condition right now there are a couple of things I have got to work on to get that final peak conditioning, but it is go time," he said.
Although his family, friends, and fans aren't allowed to physically be in Tokyo to cheer him and his team on, they all came together dressed in "Spiggy Up" shirts for the perfect send-off.
“To see him come home with a silver medal was impressive but for Kory, that wasn’t enough. So he started to train for the next one," Maclain Underwood, Kory's high school best friend said. "It is just insane to watch a high school best friend that I sat next to in psychology class to have him inspire me he’s just like my brother.”
The cost for Paralympic athletes is expensive with travel and equipment. To support his journey to gold click here.