Those who excel on the track or field of play are always an uplifting spectacle, but last week I watched a particularly inspirational athlete in action. Gathering interviews for Paralympic Dreams, a Radio Wales series on disabled sports stars, I went to see sprinter John McFall.
Twenty-four-year-old John lost his leg in an accident during his gap year.
'I was in Thailand, travelling round the islands on a moped. I got a bit over-zealous taking a corner too fast, came a cropper and did a lot of damage to my lower right leg,' he explains. 'I completely bust my knee out to the side, lost a lot of blood and they couldn't save it in the end.'
John was flown to a Bangkok hospital, where he had his leg amputated below the knee three days later.
John is someone who exudes energy, humour and positive vibes. He plays down the enormity of his accident but admits his first thought was 'will I ever be able to play frisbee on the beach with my kids?' Before losing his leg he was a talented runner hoping for an army career in the Parachute Regiment after university in Swansea. But although his destiny had changed, he adjusted to disability with his characteristic no-nonsense grit.
'Running defines mobility for amputees so as soon as I got my prosthesis I took myself off to run,' John recalls. 'I love that sound of air rushing past your ears and the freedom of it. I missed that and I wanted to get that back.'
He began to train with Swansea Harriers, but running with an everyday prosthesis rather than a specially adapted artificial leg brought difficulties and discomfort.
'I was busting cylinders and there was jarring going through the leg because it wasn't designed for athletics. I also began to wonder 'am I any good at this running malarkey' so I made some inquiries and met Anthony Hughes, performance director of the Federation of Disability Sport Wales.'
Anthony confirmed that John wasn't just 'good' at this 'running malarkey'. With the right artificial limb - an athletic 'blade' made of carbon fibre - he could be among the elite. He was proved right.
The first time John pulled on a Great Britain vest at the European Championships in Finland last year, he won bronze in the 200m. With his sights focused on the World Championships in Holland this September and the Beijing Paralympics, he is now one of the top three athletes in his class in the world.
But someone who gives so much to his adopted country has been left distraught by those only interested in taking.
During a training session at the Wales Institute of Sport in Cardiff last Thursday, John's car - a Ford Focus - was stolen from its disabled space. His new blade was in the boot. This leaves him unable to train, unlikely to compete in Europe next month and, as the process of acquiring a new blade is lengthy and complex, his preparation for the World Championships could also be ruined.
And as the prosthetic leg is not covered by the car insurance, John must seek funding to replace it.
The blade is useless to the thieves and, indeed, anyone else, but vital for John.
'I just hope someone's got the grace out there to realise what they've done, 'fess up or hand it into the authorities,' he says.
Although born in Hampshire, John had opted to run for Wales. The nation continues to punch above its weight in disabled sport.
'Wales has a fantastic Paralympic record. Just look at Athens - 24 athletes came back with 27 medals, a third of Great Britain's total.'
But John also has an emotional connection to the country. He fell in love with the 'awesome' city of Swansea and its seaside university and now lives in Cardiff, working part-time for the Federation of Disability Sport Wales.
'My running took off in Wales and I've had the fortune of being involved with the FDSW which has an excellent infrastructure.
'They've really taken me under their wing, believed in me and brought me on. I love living here. I'm one of those people who believes what goes around comes around. Wales has been very good to me and I want to put something back. So I'm very proud to run for Wales.'
On the night we had met at the National Indoor Athletics Centre in Cardiff, John was testing his new blade, a £3,000 feat of technology that had taken months to refine and adapt to his personal specifications.
He had travelled to Hampshire for five separate fittings, ensuring the prosthesis was in complete synchronicity with his other leg. As John took up his lane, a video analyst crouched with his camera at the finishing line - the film reveals if the athlete's posture and gait is correct.
John burst down the track, muscle, bone and carbon fibre combining perfectly. Over the next hour, he put the blade thoroughly through its paces, jogging, sprinting, warming down. Gulping an isotonic drink, he finally rested it on a chair.
'It's feeling really good,' he beamed. 'It's been such a long process getting the blade aligned but it's feeling great. I'm coming out of sessions surprising myself,' adding he aimed to test it in competition at a European meeting in Stuttgart next month.
Before we leave, I asked John if he ever thought his life would turn out this way after a reckless moment on a moped in Thailand.
'When I look back at the last five years, in some ways becoming an amputee is the best thing that could have happened to me. It's given me a focus, a drive, every day is a new challenge.
'You become this very motivated person. I absolutely love it. It's almost as if the novelty hasn't worn off. I can't avoid being an amputee.
'Every day I get out of bed and I have to think about putting my leg on and walking downstairs. It's pretty natural but I still have to think about it. And I like the challenge every day - I relish it.'
If anyone deserves a happy ending to this story, it's John McFall. The number to call with any information about the car theft is South Wales Police on 01656 655555.