By Justin Ho
The Challenged Athletes Foundation is an organization that has grown based on the passion to assist and help challenge athletes. Modestly beginning with one paralyzed athlete in 1993, they are a prominent organization in the challenged athlete community that pushes for awareness, research, and fundraising for individuals with physical challenges. Their mission is to make it clear that individuals with these obstacles have the same freedom to enjoy sports as everyone else. Visit their website for more information to see how you can get involved. Challenged Athletes Foundation
5:00AM – alarm bleats… Snooze.
5:45AM – !@#$! David wake up we need to get going!
On October 20th, 2013, David, my friend, Cindy, and I traveled down to La Jolla for the 2013 San Diego Triathlon Challenge. The Challenged Athletes Foundation (CAF) hosts a triathlon challenge every year. This year, the foundation celebrated their 20th anniversary, and the event took place in La Jolla Cove, California. Athletes of all types and ages came out to swim, run, and bike. This is an event I really wanted to attend and show my support for. The physical therapy clinic I work at raised a considerable amount of money for the event, and some of my co-workers and patients of the clinic were participating.
“Though it is not a race, your heart will beat faster – and that is before you take on the challenge of the swim, bike, and run. Join more than 200 challenged athletes, 550 able-bodied athletes, celebrities and pros to complete the “challenge distance” triathlon course, consisting of a 1 mile swim, 44 mile bike and 10 mile run on one of the most breathtaking courses in the country.” – CAF
We arrived at the cove just as the swimming portion began. Standing along the railings that overlooked the beach, we watched as hundreds of swimmers with brightly colored caps took to the open ocean. The water was incredibly clear with fish and ocean vegetation visible beneath the swimmers. There were even a couple of seals swimming through the waves of aquatic participants.
One of the first athletes to finish the one-mile course was an older gentleman swimming and pulling a body board with a paraplegic boy riding on top. The crowd showed enormous amounts of admiration and applause was heard throughout the beach as they reached the shore. That was only the beginning. One by one, able and challenged athletes returned to the beach. It was absolutely breathtaking to watch participants help each other finish the swim, let alone see those with amputated limbs finish confidently and unaided.
“Wow, I can barely swim a couple laps in the pool, while here are athletes swimming without limbs,” I thought to myself.
The biking portion of the event began next and we watched as athletes took off on road bikes, then transition into the running portion. The technology involved with these challenged athletes were absolutely marveling. From recumbent tricycles, to wheelchairs, to arm bikes, to modified prosthetic limbs, individuals of all ages were sporting their gear proudly.
The day before the triathlon, CAF held instructional classes for children and adults who were recent amputees, teaching them how to mobilize their new limbs. It made me think how much of an impact limb amputation has on daily activities. Some of these children participated in a short dash held on Sunday for challenged youth athletes.
All the spectators lined up along the course with contagious smiles and their cameras ready, as the announcer beckoned the start of the sprint. “On your mark, get set, GO!”
The first wave of children darted past us. The children had on their new gear and took on the course, some more adept than others. Parents and CAF coaches ran along side the kids providing words of encouragement and pointers on their form. I could not handle the rush of emotion that swept over me. The spectators around me happily teared up as the waves of children passed by. The determination on their faces was overwhelming. It was truly inspiring to see such an unparalleled level of resilience.
As more and more individuals crossed the finish line, my respect and admiration grew exponentially. The entire event carried such positive vibes that would make a trip to Disneyland seem only marginally fulfilling. It made me think deeper about how much life be can changed by a single incident, and how having a positive state of mind and an encouraging support group are keys to continue progressing through life.
These athletes have overcome obstacles that most people will never experience. Many of us take our daily motions for granted. These challenged athletes refuse to let their challenges hold them back from doing what they love and are passionate about. Despite their diverse backgrounds, their common ground provides them a positive community to get through the difficult obstacles life has thrown at them, all the while inspiring their spectators and supporters to be more than they are.
The triathlon was a reminder that we’re blessed with a great opportunities in life and that there isn’t a valid excuse out there stopping us from pursuing our passions.
“Everyone deserves to feel the power of crossing a finish line.” – CAF
Photo Source: Justin Ho
Disclaimer: Photos were taken at the 2013 Challenged Athletes Foundation SD Triathlon 10/20/2013. Consent was not received from the individuals depicted in the images. We do no intend to sell or profit from these images. If there are any issues with the publication of this images in this article, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, and we’ll cooperate to alter or remove the images from the article.