DiscoverPlaymakers: On PurposeGoing for Gold (ft. Joe Delagrave, Paralympic Athlete, Team USA)
Going for Gold (ft. Joe Delagrave, Paralympic Athlete, Team USA)

Going for Gold (ft. Joe Delagrave, Paralympic Athlete, Team USA)

Update: 2021-08-23


Going for Gold (ft. Joe Delagrave)

How an athlete turned a horrible tragedy into his greatest achievements.


“In that split second, life changed. I go from the boat to the rescue boat, to the ambulance, to the local hospital. They med flight me up to a bigger hospital. And that’s when I learned that I had a spinal cord injury, that I had broken my neck, and that I’d probably never walk again.” —Joe Delagrave


Joe Delagrave is a Paralympic athlete for Team USA, a journey that introduced him to the sport of wheelchair rugby. After a casual boating accident that would have derailed most people’s lives and shattered their dreams, Joe’s story becomes one of purpose, passion, courage, comeback, grit, resilience, and transformation.

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[07:34 ] - Where Victory is Made

It’s not just on the field, track, or court

Joe recognizes that if he and his teammates land gold at the Paralympic Games, it won’t just be the result of their work in Tokyo. It will be the 13 years of preparation, the sacrifices from players and their families and more. Many different paths must be taken to reach that destination.

[10:37 ] - The Event that Changed Everything

And what came next...

In 2004, Joe Delagrave was in a boat that struck the bottom of the river and sent him flying backwards in the boat, breaking his neck at vertebrae C6 and C7. His initial response was feelings of frustration and depression, but he then realized that he was wired to push through anything. So, he did.

[24:28 ] - From ‘How Do I Get Out’ to ‘How Do I Excel Where I Am’

A shift of mindset transformed Joe’s life

At first, Joe Delagrave wanted only one thing— to get out of his wheelchair. He felt that was the only way his life could begin again. Then, he pivoted, realizing— there are avenues for success while living with disability. That’s when a true transformation took place, and he began to reach for his ultimate potential.

[28:14 ] - The Power of Choice

When it feels like your agency is taken away, you always have a choice

Joe could have turned to blame, to bitterness, and to a feeling of helplessness. Instead, he inspires himself and others every day to remember that you always have a choice in how you respond to tragedy or roadblocks. If you can break free from blame, you can find incredible success on the other side.

[34:54 ] - The Danger of Identifying Yourself with Your Success

How Joe almost let his competitive spirit get the better of him

When Joe began chasing gold medals in the Paralympic games, he began to think that obtaining that dream would validate him as a husband, father, leader, and community member. But he soon realized that it wouldn’t do any of those things. Just as he would have to earn his victories in wheelchair rugby, he would also have to earn his victories in other areas of his life.

[42:39 ] - You vs. Them: A Whole New Meaning

Whose opinion matters to you?

Joe likes to ask everyone he meets, “Are you more worried about what other people think of you, or are you more worried about actually living out your purpose?’ The people who choose the latter are the ones who ultimately end up achieving even their wildest dreams.



We'd love to hear your thoughts on today’s episode. Feel free to DM Paul on social or shoot him an email at

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Playmakers: Impact Unleashed is an all-access pass to the game-changers of today and the history makers of tomorrow. The show looks past the trophy cabinet and features a no-BS, inside look into the world of comeback, transformation, and impact unearthing practical tools and mindsets that we can all leverage to make a play in our own lives and careers.

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Going for Gold (ft. Joe Delagrave, Paralympic Athlete, Team USA)

Going for Gold (ft. Joe Delagrave, Paralympic Athlete, Team USA)

Detroit Podcast Studios, Connor Trombley, Paul Epstein, Joe Delagrave