By Connor Beach
Paralympic gold medalist Michael “Mikey” Brannigan was honored with a Lifetime Distinction Award at Northport High School on Wednesday afternoon in front of a crowd of officials, media, neighbors and fans. The East Northport native and Northport High School graduate won the gold medal at the 2016 Rio Paralympic Games in the 1500-meter run with a time of 3:51.73.
Assemblyman Chad Luppinacci (R-South Huntington) presented Brannigan with the award to honor his incredible athletic achievements and to acknowledge his inspirational story. Northport-East Northport Superintendent Robert Banzer, Assemblyman Andrew Raia (R- E. Northport) and New York State Senators John Flanagan (R- E. Northport) and Carl Marcellino (R- Syosset) were also on hand to present the citation.
“It is Mikey Brannigan day in New York,” Luppinacci said. “You’re not only our home town hero, but you’re inspiring to all New Yorkers and all Americans.”
Flanagan, Marcellino, and Raia all praised Brannigan for generating so much positive media coverage at a time when the news is so often negative. “These are the stories that people should know about and want to hear about,” argued Flanagan.
Brannigan is the first autistic runner to win a gold metal in the 1500-meter event; he competed in the T20 classification for athletes with intellectual impairments.
Brannigan said that he was proud to bring a gold medal back to the Northport community that has offered him so much support. “The whole Northport track community really helped me and supported me,” Brannigan said. “They pushed me through it.”
Sonja Robinson, who has been coaching Brannigan for two years, also offered applause for the community. “He is the personification of a good sportsman,” Robinson said of the runner. “He learned that from his parents, and he learned that from you here in Northport.”
At the age of 20, Brannigan is looking forward to the future and the possibility of competing at the Paralympic games in 2020, and eventually moving to the Olympic level. “It takes an American distance runner 8 to 10 years to really develop,” said Robinson, who added that 2024 is a realistic goal for Brannigan to reach his full potential. Robinson went on to praise Brannigan’s mental toughness and dedication to the sport he loves.
The State delegation invited Brannigan to Albany in January to be recognized in front of the entire state legislature.