Now he is one of the best in the world.
Winkler was introduced to shot put and discus at the 2006 U.S. Olympic Committee Paralympic Military Sports Camp in Colorado Springs, Colo. Since then, he set the American record in the shot put (11.27 meters) while placing fifth at the 2008 Paralympic Games in Beijing.
He has the 2012 Paralympic Games in London in his sights, but he first must navigate the 2012 U.S. Paralympic Athletics Trials in Indianapolis from June 29 to July 1.
For the former Army cook, being a part of the Paralympics again would mean a great deal.
“I wore the battle dress uniform; now I wear the athletic uniform,” Winkler said. “It’s a huge honor to represent your country. Not everybody can say they’ve done it. I can say I’ve done it once and I want to do it again, and this time I want to take the gold medal from other countries.”
After the Beijing Olympics, Winkler began training with Randy Taylor, the Gordon Fitness Center facility manager and personal trainer.
“In 2008, he didn’t know what the hell he was doing and took fifth,” Taylor said of Winkler.
So now, under Taylor’s guidance, Winkler lifts weights Monday, Wednesday and Friday, throws Tuesday and Thursday, and finishes off the week with a Friday massage from therapist Nancy Schneider at the Gordon Fitness Center.
“I needed the next step to the next level,” Winkler said.
Following a schedule means dividing time between two things he loves.
“It’s a hard balance between family and being a professional athlete,” Winkler said. “It’s a hard balance of which one to do. Thank God I have a good family, and I have a lot of support through family.”
Helping that process along is his wife, Brandi, who is also his throwing coach. He uses his yard as a practice facility.
“My wife is an extra set of eyes,” Winkler said. “It’s great to live with your coach.”
Taylor has been working with Winkler on his mental game.
“He’s got a natural talent there; we’ve just got to keep him convinced,” Taylor said. “Sometimes we let insecurities creep into our minds.”
One of the biggest obstacles facing Winkler as he heads into the trials is overcoming a surgically repaired right triceps. He hyperextended his elbow in November throwing the discus at the 2011 Parapan American Games in Guadalajara, Mexico. He still finished with the gold medal in the shot put and bronze in the discus.
“It felt like my life was over,” Winkler said. “I didn’t know if I would throw again.”