The USA's Michael Brannigan in action at the World Para Athletics Championships London 2017.

Michael Brannigan


Brannigan has undoubtedly become the man to beat in men’s T20 middle-distance racing.

The American – known as Mikey – was diagnosed with autism at three-years-old and competes in the T20 class for intellectually impaired athletes, having taken up running aged eight through the Rolling Thunder Special Needs Program in, New York, USA.

After announcing himself on the to the world stage at Doha 2015 with victory in the 1,500m T20 (3:56.50) and silver over 5,000m, Brannigan’s trajectory continued apace.

In August 2016, he ran a 3:57.58 mile at the 2016 Sir Walter Miler in the USA, shaving nearly six seconds off his previous best and breaking the four-minute mile barrier for the first time.

One month later, Brannigan won Paralympic gold in Rio, controlling the 1,500m from start to finish and crossing the line in 3:51.73.

In February 2017 he broke the 1,500m T20 world record, clocking clocked 3:45.50 en route to finishing seventh in the prestigious Invitational Men’s Mile race at the Millrose Games in New York, USA. Two months later he lowered the 5,000m T20 world record to 14:09.51 too.

By the time the London 2017 World Championships came around, Brannigan was one of the key favourites for gold, and he duly delivered – not once, but twice, with an equally impressive silver in the 5,000m as well.

In the 1,500m, Brannigan pounced with one lap to go, leaving the field in his wake as he safely defended his world title in championship record time (3:53.05). A few days later, Brannigan added gold in the 800m (1:54.24), racing to the front with 200m to go.

He was named Sports Illustrated High School Athlete of the Month for February 2015, while in 2017 he was named Team USA’s Male Paralympic Athlete of the Year.


Impairment information

Type of Impairment
Intellectual impairment
Origin of Impairment

Further personal information

East Northport, NY, USA

Sport specific information

When and where did you begin this sport?
He took up running at age eight through the Rolling Thunder Special Needs Program in Shirley, NY, United States of America.
Why this sport?
He was encouraged to take up the sport by his father Kevin. He had attended a work function and overheard a man talking about an athletics team that integrated athletes with a physical or intellectual impairment.
Club / Team
New York Athletic Club: United States
Name of coach
Sonja Robinson [personal], from 2015

International debut

Competing for
United States
Parapan American Games
Toronto, ON, CAN

General interest

Mikey, Mike (, 08 Sep 2015;, 23 Feb 2015)
Memorable sporting achievement
Winning a gold medal in the 1500m T20 at the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. (Athlete, 28 Sep 2017)
Most influential person in career
US middle distance runner Matthew Centrowitz, coach Steve Cuomo. (Athlete, 28 Sep 2017; Sports Illustrated YouTube channel, 19 Apr 2016)
Hero / Idol
US swimmer Michael Phelps. (Athlete, 28 Sep 2017)
Sporting philosophy / motto
"Always keep trying." (Athlete, 28 Sep 2017)
Awards and honours
He was named a 2014 US Paralympics Track and Field High School All-American in the 800m and 1500m. (, 15 Sep 2014)
He became the first athlete representing the United States of America to win gold in the T20 1500m at the Paralympic Games by claiming victory at the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro. (SportsDeskOnline, 13 Mar 2021;, 15 Jul 2020)
To compete at the 2020 Paralympic Games in Tokyo and at the 2024 Paralympic Games in Paris. (, 05 Apr 2019)
He was diagnosed with autism at age three. (, 16 Jul 2015; Athlete, 28 Sep 2017)


Unit Date Rank
IPC Athletics 2015 World Championships (Doha, Qatar)
Event Medal Unit Date Rank
Men's 1500 m T20 Final 1 2015-10-25 1
Men's 5000 m T20 Final 1 2015-10-30 2
Rio 2016 Paralympic Games (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil)
Event Medal Unit Date Rank
Men's 1500 m T20 Final Round 2016-09-13 1
World Para Athletics Championships London 2017 (London, Great Britain)
Event Medal Unit Date Rank
Men's 1500 m T20 Final 1 2017-07-17 1
Men's 800 m T20 Heat 1 2017-07-21 1
Men's 800 m T20 Final 1 2017-07-22 1
Men's 5000 m T20 Final 1 2017-07-23 2