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Eight minutes came between Rudy Garcia-Tolson, 21, of Bloomington, CA and a history making dream of becoming the first double above-knee amputee to finish the Ford Ironman World Championships held last Saturday, October 10 when he missed the bike cut off time. With only his hips used to generate speed in his prosthetic legs, Rudy needed every minute and every second of efficiency to propel himself on the bike 112 miles around the unforgiving rolling hills of the Queen K. The bike is the second of the three disciplines in the Ironman which starts with a 2.4 mile swim, and concludes with a marathon – 26.2 miles. After a speedy 1:05 swim and then 9:30 on the bike, Rudy gave it what he had on that day. He now knows what he needs to do to finish. His sprit is far from broken.
“The swim was pretty crazy,” explained Rudy, as he described his race day. “There were arms and legs everywhere, so it was definitely an experience. I felt good on the bike and wasn’t too bothered by the 90+ degree heat or gusty winds, but at about mile 70, I knew I had to keep a certain speed and I knew it was going to be close. I kept pushing till the end.”
“Sometimes things don’t go the way you want them to” said Rudy when he spoke about what he learned from the experience. “You can give up or your can fight back and continue to go after your goal. I’m fired up! And after spending a couple hours at the finish line cheering the final competitors in, and feeling the energy from the crowd, the spark grew even stronger.”
“After a heroic effort, Rudy just missed his goal of becoming an Ironman” said Virginia Tinley, executive director of the Challenged Athletes Foundation (CAF). “The fact that this two time Paralympic swimming gold medalist was out there pedaling up the challenging hills of Kona in blistering conditions using only his glutes showing others that anything is possible – proves he’s capable. It just wasn’t his day.”
The Ford Ironman World Championship is not for the faint-of-heart. But Rudy lives to take on challenges. As a spokesperson for the CAF and member of Team Ossur – elite amputee athletes sponsored by the company that makes his prosthetic legs – he’s always defied perceptions of disability and pushed the limits of what the human body can do.
“I have no excuses” said Rudy. “My equipment was perfect, but being off my legs for the three weeks leading into the event due to an infection in my stumps was a set back. In the end, it was an honor for me to participate in the event, and I’d love to have another opportunity to cross that finish line.”
For Competitor’s complete video coverage of the Hawaii Ironman, click here.