Meet Josh Sundquist, a Paralympic athlete (ski-racer), a motivational speaker, a comedian, an author, and now a TV Show writer for Apple TV+. “Best Foot Forward” is his first on screen work, based off his amazing real-life story. A truly inspirational show and human being.
At what age did you join the Paralympics, and how were you first exposed/ motivated to join?
I learned to ski soon after losing my leg to cancer at age nine. While I was still on chemotherapy, a former Paralympic ski team coach happened to see me skiing and told me I had great potential. Although I didn’t start racing until I was a teenager, his encouragement definitely set my life on a different path.
Why did you choose to be a ski racer?
I think there was a period of my childhood when my friends were playing on baseball teams and soccer teams and so forth when I was stuck in the hospital, or stuck at home recovering from chemotherapy. So maybe I had missed out on the chance to push myself athletically. When I got a taste of competitive skiing in my teens, I saw it as a chance push my limits athletically and perhaps someday to represent the United States in the Paralympics, which was such an inspiring idea to me.
What were some of the challenges you faced while training and how did you get through them?
In my first race I fell five times. But I kept getting back up until I crossed the finish line. I was last place (by far!) but I did finish. And as my skiing career continued, I brought that same attitude of determination to cross the finish line, win or lose.
Did you have a mentor growing up? And what role did that person play in your life and your career?
Two weeks after my amputation was the first time I went in public as a person with one leg. I was playing in my church’s annual softball game. I went up to bat, and I got strike after strike. There was a point when I wanted to quit. I was going to walk off the field. But my dad encouraged me. He kept me in the the game. I eventually got a hit…after more than twenty pitches.
Best life advice you received growing up?
My dad’s advice in that game: keep swinging.
After the Paralympics, how did you decide to become an author? A comedian?
Going to the Paralympics was one of the biggest thrills and honors of my life, but at the end of a day of skiing, all you’ve really done is slide around on frozen water, you know? You haven’t impacted anyone. So I wanted to look for ways to connect with people as a storyteller and comedian, which is what led me to write and perform and ultimately to make this show for Apple TV+.
How does it feel to have a show created based off your life?
It’s surreal. As a writer on the show—we had a writer’s room with about a dozen people working on the scripts for 20 weeks—I got so used to talking about “Josh” as a character that sometimes I’d forget the show was about me. Then when we started filming there would be scenes that would remind me of something that happened to me in my real life, and I’d be like, oh yeah, this show is about me.
How involved were you in the creation of the show?
I was intimately involved. We started developing four years ago, and for the past year, this show has been my life. I was in the writer’s room every day, and I was on set every day when we were filming. We found the star of the show through my Instagram, and I was able to bring in many friends with disabilities who work in the entertainment industry to be a part of our crew.
Tell us about the impact you want the show to have.
I hope first and foremost that people are entertained and that they laugh out loud and want to watch the show again and again with their families. And on top of that, I hope they walk away with a slightly different perspective on what it means to look or to feel different, as Josh does in our show. I hope that families who have a child with special needs find the show relatable, and that families who don’t find that it broadens their perspectives.
What would you tell your middle school self?
Don’t worry so much. Everything will turn out fine. Also, invest in Apple stock.
What advice can you give our readers for any struggles they have or will have throughout their life?
Surround yourself with the people you want to be like. When people who have recently lost limbs come to me for advice, that’s what I always suggest. Find role models and friends and heroes who have already faced this challenge and you’ll naturally become more like those people.