‘You’ve got to keep going:’ Hanover man living as quadriplegic inspires teens to overcome

Posted at 8:27 PM, Aug 04, 2016

HANOVER COUNTY, Va. -- When it comes to sports you will find no bigger fan than Cole Sydnor.

“It is pretty interesting. It brings up a lot of nostalgia. I love lacrosse. Sports to me was my life,” says Cole.

Cole thrives on competition, but the 21-year-old hasn’t been able to play hoops or lacrosse for five years. On August 11, 2011 the Hanover teen’s life changed in a flash when he dove into the James River.

Cole Sydnor

Cole Sydnor

“As soon as I broke the surface of the water I heard crack,” says Cole.

The crack was Cole’s vertebrae shattering against a rock.

“I couldn’t move at all,” Cole added.

Friends pulled him to safety. At the hospital Cole would ask his mother, Kelly, a question.

“He said, ‘Do you think I’m paralyzed,’” says Cole’s mother, Kelly Sydnor.

The then 16-year-old became a quadriplegic in an instant.

Cole Sydnor

Cole Sydnor

“I have no tricep function. I have no hand function. No pecs or abs or legs at all,” says Cole.

“I said Cole your body is merely a vessel,” says Kelly. “What is important is that you have a heart, a brain and a soul and that is what is beautiful about you.”

While Cole recuperated at VCU Medical Center family, friends and strangers renovated the Sydnor home to include an elevator.

“We just have friends that we owe everything too,” says Kelly.

Cole has not allowed his devastating injury hold him back.

“There is only one option in my mind. You’ve got to keep going,” says Cole.

Cole graduated with honors from Atlee High School and is entering his senior year at the University of Richmond.

Cole Sydnor

Cole Sydnor

“I’m still alive. I still have my brain. I’m still myself,” says Cole.

Cole actually considers himself lucky, being able to visit schools and spread the dangers of diving among school groups.

“I might be able to do more,” says Cole. “Because I have a platform and I am able to reach people to make a difference.”

“He has a great story to tell,” says Kelly. “Fortunately, he has a great attitude to go along with it. I don’t think anything will ever stop Cole.”

Cole Sydnor

Cole Sydnor

Whether it is competition on the field or in the game of life, Cole Sydnor always plans on winning.

“As soon as you get hit with something hard in life. That is when you grow in life,” says Cole.

Cole is working on establishing his Role for Cole organization as a non-profit. His organization promotes living an active lifestyle.

Greg McQuade features local heroes in a weekly “Heroes Among Us” segment. Watch Greg’s reports Thursdays on CBS News at 6 or here on If you would like to nominate someone to be featured on “Heroes Among Us,” click here to email

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