Originally published in the Cincinnati Enquirer – September 19, 2019
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.”
A full menu
Kristin McGinn works for Cincinnati Insurance and Walgreen’s, trying to earn money for the training and competitions that have turned on a light for Austin. She hopes to find some form of fundraising to offset expenses.
With Austin and Jordan’s hectic training schedule, they make use of the Ohio Virtual Academy for school. His upcoming schedule has him spanning the globe. In addition to Michigan, competitions are in Orlando, Fort Lauderdale and Las Vegas and could expand to Europe and Asia in the future.
“We just pack the laptops and go,” McGinn said. “We just take school with us. All of his classes are taught by actual teachers, so it’s not home school. It’s public school on-line.”
Osner also played select soccer for five years, but his success in TaeKwonDo leaves little time for much else. He trains five to six times per week.
With the upcoming ambitious schedule, McGinn hopes Austin not only gets to Paris, but to his birthplace, Okinawa, Japan. He wasn’t there long as it was a military assignment, but McGinn would like her kids to see the connection.
A single parent, McGinn has a busy calendar, but talented kids who are receiving an enlightened education. TaeKwonDo has opened doors and brought new friends to a son who once felt alone.
“It’s helped me use my disability to let other people know they’re not as limited as they think they are,” Osner said.
To learn more about Ohio Virtual Academy, visit https://ohva.k12.com/