MANKATO — From a young age, Adam Starr was always the kid you immediately liked and wanted your own kid to be around.
As a state-placing diver at Mankato West High School in 2007-08, Starr showed his poise and acrobatic skills, along with an infectious smile, optimism and humility.
It’s a personality that’s served him well through the travails of a rare cancer diagnosis, the amputation of his leg and chemotherapy.
And it’s a personality that’s helped make him a viral sensation. In the past few weeks, a half-million people have watched a YouTube video he posted of his first time back in the gym doing backflips and other gymnastics.
Starr, a St. Olaf college student who is applying to medical schools, had done gymnastics from age 3 to 15, until taking up diving.
As he recovered from his surgery, he began training and regaining strength.
“I’d been bouncing on one leg, doing weight training pretty much every day and riding bike. I decided to go to a gymnastics place and see if I might be strong enough to do a back flip again.”
With friends video taping, Starr first spins around on a tub with his prosthetic limb attached. Then with the prosthetic leg discarded. he heads to a trampoline flipping forward and backward and landing on one foot.
“It felt great because gymnastics and acrobatics were a big part of my life.”
He posted the video on his Facebook page. “I just wanted to share with my family and friends and my swim and gymnastics friends to show that I was able to do it.”
The video soon went viral online and Starr’s story has been picked up by media across the country and in Great Britain.
“Part of the reason I wanted the video up is I saw other amputees doing cool stuff on YouTube, and I thought maybe mine could inspire someone else,” he said.
“The balance and landing are the hardest. It’s hard to balance on two legs and a big difference balancing on one.”
(To see the video, go to YouTube.com and search for “Adam’s first time back at the gym.”)
Starr began having problems with his foot and leg in high school. In 2009, Mayo Clinic doctors diagnosed him with angiosarcoma — cancer of the lining of blood vessels. He had to make the decision of whether to have his leg removed immediately or try other options first.
“It wasn’t a difficult decision to make because it was the best option. It’s a very fast and high-grade cancer and the leg was already problematic,” he said.
“There’s (ongoing) risk, but I’ve only had good news since the surgery.”
Besides returning to gymnastics as a hobby, Starr has gone rock climbing on the St. Olaf climbing wall and skis at Mount Kato when he’s home on break.
“Downhill skiing I don’t use my prosthetic leg. Biking I do. It just depends on what feels right.”
Starr said he gets his outlook on life from his mom and dad — Leslie, a longtime elementary teacher at Hoover, and Garrett, a Mankato dentist.
“My parents are very positive and encouraging.”
Tim Krohn is a Free Press staff writer. He can be contacted at 344-6383 or email@example.com
Click on the YouTube link HERE to see Adam at his fist session back at the gym.Tags: Adam Starr, amputation, angiosarcoma, prosthetic