|Challange Athlete Foundation
Have you ever heard of Evan Morgan? How about Scout Bassett? What about Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah? These names are not usually household fodder for dinner talk, but they should be. They are the names of athletic heroes whose resumes of accomplishments have nothing to do with being the fastest humans on the planet. Their inspiration starts with what is clearly obvious. They have challenges to competing in sports that the majority of the world does not. Some are missing limbs. Others like Ricky James who competed in the Ironman a few weeks ago and finished in an amazing time of 12:44:42, have spinal cords that don’t connect all points south with the circuitry up top.
But with the help of the Challenged Athletes Foundation (www.challengedathletes.org), and the inspiration of those who have paved the road and opened the door of possibility before them (Carlos Moleda, David Bailey, Sarah Reinertsen and Rudy Garcia-Tolson to name a few), taking part in sport has been brought to people around the country and around the world. They do more than just watch. They put their disabilities aside and become the ones that the rest of the world is cheering for.
I had the chance to swim on a relay today with a team of challenged athletes in the 15th anniversary of the San Diego Triathlon Challenge, which is one of the hallmark events that the CAF organizes to both highlight the accomplishments of the athletes and also to raise funding to provide as much support as they can for others who need it.
This was the first time I had to go through the body marking line in almost 13 years. My preparation for the 1.2-mile swim was fairly unorthodox. With the exception of about five swims in the pool earlier this summer, I haven’t seen a pace clock on a pool deck in years. My hope was that the surfing I’d been doing would carry me through. And if nothing else I knew my Blue Seventy wetsuit would at least keep me floating if I totally loaded up with a poor pace choice.
Well, the water gods were on my side. An early morning fog made navigating the full course entirely impossible. With five minutes to go to the start the call was made…the swim would be shortened. At that moment, the only buoy that was visible from shore, and barely at that, was the first one. The announcement that the swim would be cut to about half its original length was not good news for the pure swimmers, but for me it was the most welcome news I have had in a while, as it was for a few other Iron Vets like Scott Tinley and Paul Huddle.
But back to the main focus of the day, and that is the athletes and crowd that showed up and raced, participated, supported, cheered finishers and congratulated everyone realizing their dreams. Some were missing a leg (or two), or an arm (or two). Others will never stand on the legs that they do have, but all embodied strength, desire and a dream that will carry them above and beyond what some might say should hold them back.
Congratulations to all. It was an honor to take part.