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LIVE FROM THE HEADLINES

Interview with Marlin Shirley, "World's Fastest Amputee"

Aired September 3, 2003 - 20:54   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: Finally, tonight, a look at a unique athlete. Marlin Shirley is a remarkable runner and an amputee with a remarkable story.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN (voice-over): Marlin Shirley is a triple threat, fast, fearless, determined. He has always faced a challenge head on. Born to a drug addicted mother, he group in several orphanages. When he was 5, he lost part of his left leg in a lawn mower accident. And then spent the next few years being bounced from foster home to foster home. When he was nine, he was adopted by Mormon couple from a small farming town in Utah. Over the years he struggled to fit in and find his way in the mostly white town. It was in sports that he finally found direction, track and field. Now, he can do what few people can. Run 100 meters in under 11 seconds, and he does it wearing a state-of- the-art high-tech prosthesis. With it, Marlin Shirley is breaking all records and changing many minds about what it means to be disabled.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: And we're happy to welcome Marlin Shirley to our studio, along with Scott Sabolich, whose company made his prosthetic leg.

Congratulations.

MARLIN SHIRLEY, "WORLD'S FASTEST AMPUTEE": Thank you very much.

ZAHN: Describe to us what it meant to cross that finish line as the world champion.

SHIRLEY: It was an exciting moments at long come. Brooks and I who is my couch down at Chula Vista trained vigorously to get this accomplished not only breaking the barrier of 11 seconds, but breaking the barrier for perception upon athletes of my capability.

ZAHN: Help us understand this barrier because, able-bodied runners run this in 9 seconds -- 9.78 seconds.

SHIRLEY: Now, they're running it in 10 seconds. Might I remind you the world champion actually ran it in 10.08 seconds.

ZAHN: So the margin of difference between you and the able- bodied runner is like that. SHIRLEY: Well, technically yes. I'm not saying I have that level of competition. It's not there yet. But my drive and the way I train and the way I compete is as high level as them if not higher. My standards of athletics is definitely professional and it's very important to me.

ZAHN: You've not had an easy life. When you think back to what happened to you when you were 5-years-old, a lot of kids would have just given up. You where subjected to a lot of transitions as a kid, in and out of homes. What gave you the motivation to excel like this?

SHIRLEY: I really have to be honest, I don't think there was one thing that gave me motivation. I was blessed with, you know, a life most people wouldn't have wanted. But I was blessed with the ability to overcome any trial or tribulation given to me.

ZAHN: And Scott, what's the magic of that prosthetic device you created for Marlin.

SCOTT SABOLICH, MAKER OF MARLIN'S PROSTHETIC LEG: He came to us recently to design a prosthesis as fast as he was. And that's quite a challenge. We have a team of specialists in Oklahoma City that put together just that and we expect world records out of him.

ZAHN: Does it hurt when you wear that?

SHIRLEY: No, not at all. If you look that inside of the socket, there's actually gel pads that help give me the comfort that I need, as I'm running down the track and the foot is compressing and not compressing. I mean (UNINTELLIGIBLE) made a remarkable foot out of carbon fiber the same as the socket is made out of. So not only does it make it light but makes very efficient.

ZAHN: So really makes it feel like it's part of your body?

SHIRLEY: Most definitely is. And It has to be. I do all my training in this leg. Even the smallest off balancing all that stuff in this leg, because this is what I compete I in.

ZAHN: So, now that you're world champion, what is your advice to anybody who tries to catch you?

SHIRLEY: I wouldn't work on catching me.

ZAHN: We'll continue to watch your great achievements. Thanks for sharing your story with us. Welcome home. I know this is almost halfway home, now. Scott and Marlin, continued success to you.

SHIRLEY: Thank you very much.

ZAHN: Very proud of you.

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