Carroll County Times
Carroll County Sports

Marathon: Mt. Airy's Romanchuk wins big in Chicago

Daniel Romanchuk of the United States wins the Wheelchair division at the Chicago Marathon in Chicago on October 7, 2018.

Daniel Romanchuk grew up hearing doubts about what he could achieve in life.

Romanchuk, 20, was born with spina bifida, a birth defect that prevents a developing baby’s spinal cord from forming properly.


The 20-year-old Mount Airy native has been paralyzed from the waist down and confined to a wheelchair since he was 3 years old, but he doesn’t let the congenital disorder prevent him from accomplishing his goals.

Romanchuk, a student at Parkland Community College, in Champaign, Illinois, became a world champion for the first time when he won the Chicago Marathon men’s wheelchair race Oct. 7.


Romanchuk finished in in a little more than an hour-and-a-half, and held off two-time defending champion Marcel Hug of Switzerland in the process.

“There’s a lot of different feelings and emotions that tie into it,” Romanchuk said. “I definitely felt a lot of pain. Marcel is a great racer and I’ve watched him on world stages. He’s always been a great racer and is an all-around great guy.”

The Chicago Marathon is one of six major marathons in the Abbot World Marathon Majors Series — the others are Tokyo Marathon, Boston Marathon, Virgin Money London Marathon, Berlin Marathon, and New York City Marathon.

Romanchuk finished fifth in Berlin on Sept. 16, the first of the six marathons. Athletes accumulate points based on where the finish in each race and the top four performances are added together to determine a series winner.

Romanchuk has competed in every race, except for Tokyo. He placed 17th in Chicago in 2016, and ninth in 2017.

He also finished third in the Boston and London races.

Romanchuk said he has been actively participating in programs at the Kennedy Krieger Institute, a Disabled Sports USA chapter in Baltimore, since he was 2. He started playing sports for the Bennett Blazers, an adaptive sports program at Kennedy Krieger, where he also took motor development classes for children with motor disabilities.

The classes specialized on basic movement skills, such as crawling, climbing, throwing, and rolling.


“Their motto is to teach kids they can before they’re told they can’t,” Romanchuk said. “As far as developing into an independent individual, it has been a huge part of becoming who I am and where I am today.”

Romanchuk played wheelchair basketball and sled hockey, and competed in archery, table tennis, track, and more before making it a goal to become a member of the United States Paralympic Track and Field Team for the 2016 Summer Paralympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

He moved to Illinois about three years ago to start training under the guidance of Adam Bleakney, coach of the University of Illinois Wheelchair Racing team. Romanchuk said Bleakney creates every workout for his athletes to put them in the best positions to succeed during marathon season.

U.S. Paralympics announced the team of athletes who would compete in the Games in August of 2016. Romanchuk made the 267-member team, the largest U.S. delegation in history, and “absolutely” hopes to compete in the 2020 Summer Paralympics in Tokyo.

Mount Airy native Daniel Romanchuk finishes in first place during the Wheelchair race in the Chicago Marathon, Oct. 7, 2018.

“It was a great time when I was down there,” Romanchuk said. “I learned a lot about track racing and I was only 18 at that point. It was sort of a go get one under your belt thing of going through the process of getting through team processing, through the call room. It shouldn’t be new to me in 2020.”

In 2015, Romanchuk medaled in the 5,000 at the 2015 Parapan American Games in Toronto and was named a U.S. Paralympics Track and Field High School All-American in nine events (100, 200, 400, 800, 1,500, 5,000, discus, javelin, and shot put).


He was home-schooled prior to attending Parkland, and hopes to transfer to Illinois to earn a degree in engineering after the 2020 Summer Paralympics in Tokyo.

When he’s back home in Mount Airy, Romanchuk said he he helps run clinics for the Bennett Blazers.

“It’s been neat to watch from when at birth, you have a kid who has an obvious physical disability at birth and the world says he is going to be very limited in what he can achieve,” said Kim Romanchuk, Daniel’s mother. “To watch him grow through the sports experiences and experiences at church, to grow to be a very intelligent and hardworking athlete who has for sure traveled the world more than I have, it’s been amazing.

“First, we credit God with providing all of these opportunities that we could not have had. I can’t imagine what life would have been like had we not gotten him involved at Bennett. It’s truly a life-changing program.”