CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- When Danny Riffle lost his leg nine years ago, he didn't think he would become an athlete.
In fact, when he first was first approached to join Charleston Area Medical Center's challenged sports program, he said he wasn't interested.
However, thanks to a need to get out of his hospital room and a therapist who insisted he join the program, Riffle says he joined and it changed his life.
"I've never been an athlete in my life," the 64-year-old Summersville resident said. "When teams chose their ball team for sandlot, I was the last to be chosen. I wasn't that athletic but the challenged sports program offered the opportunity to be an athlete. Now, I feel like I am."
A smoker for 41 years, Riffle said he started having trouble with his leg but he still couldn't kick the habit, which later caused him to lose his leg.
"It's awful to say but I'm healthier now than I was 10 years ago," he said. "I did no physical activity. I worked hard -- worked long hours. I came home and sat on the couch. I did what I had to do and that's it. Now, I look forward to do what I can physically."
Back in 2004, Riffle had just received his artificial leg and was in rehab to learn how to use it. His recreational therapist saw him again the day after Riffle initially had expressed no interest in joining the program.
The program, sponsored by CAMC's Medical Rehabilitation Center, is the only organized, sanctioned sporting program for the physically challenged in West Virginia, according to the hospital.
Riffle said he was skeptical because he had never done javelin or shot put before.
"He said there was a vacant lot two blocks up the street and there were implements in the office and he would teach me how to throw," Riffle said. "I was in the hospital for nine days. Just the opportunity to be outside was enough for me to want to give it a try."
At first, Riffle said he didn't think he was catching on but his therapist told him he was doing well.
However, it only took a year after receiving his artificial leg before he started competing. Riffle said he broke three state records and finished second in discus, javelin and shot put competitions.
"I raced my wheelchair in the 100-meter race," Riffle said. "The only chair I had was the one I was pushed out of the hospital on. And I finished second.