Rudy Garcia-Tolson (Riverside, Calif.) will become the first double above-the-knee amputee to compete in the Ironman World Championship this Saturday, October 10. The 21-year-old Garcia-Tolson will compete in Kona, Hawaii in what's billed as the world's toughest triathlon, a 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike, and 26.2 mile run.
Garcia-Tolson was born with multiple birth defects including Pterygium Syndrome, a clubfoot, webbed fingers on both hands, and a cleft lip and palate. When he was five, he decided to have both legs amputated, but never let his disabilities stand in the way of pursuing his athletic dreams.
"Who said you have to have legs to compete? All I've ever wanted to do was pursue my dreams and show people that you can do anything if you set your mind to it. Hopefully other kids with disabilities will see what I've accomplished and go after their dreams regardless of any perceived obstacles," he says. "I just want to prove to the world that no matter your challenge, whether it's physical or mental, it can be overcome with a brave heart and determination."
By age eight he made the declaration that he would win a gold medal at the Paralympic Games. In 2004 he won his first gold in the 200m individual medley and at the 2008 Beijing Paralympic Games he defended his title wining the gold for a second time. In the process, he beat his own world record.
Even though his swimming results speak for themselves, Garcia-Tolson stressed that the swimming leg will be where he plans to establish a groove in the race, but anticipates challenges in the constant monitoring of his prosthetic legs and body needs.
"I'm looking forward to starting the race" says Garcia-Tolson. "The swim is my strongest part of the race and where I'll find my groove. The run is going to be the biggest challenge. I'll have to constantly monitor my stumps for swelling and slipping, as well as my nutrition and hydration."
By completing the race he will dispel any suggestions that athletes with physical disabilities are not capable of the same rigorous competition as their able-bodied counterparts, but it will also provide him with another opportunity to share his success story and inspire others to pursue their own dreams.
Some information in this story provided by Ossur.