Close to 50 paratriathletes competing in various categories took to the start line on a stunning San Diego morning for the 2013 San Diego ITU Paratriathlon International Event, with huge crowds watching and cheering them on throughout their race.
With the sport included on the list of events at the 2016 Rio Paralympic Games, there is heightened interest in the athletes and paratri racing in general, with more ITU sanctioned events on the calendar providing opportunities for new and existing paratri athletes to impress with their commitment, passion and abilities.
Rudy Garcia has been inspiring others through his sporting achievements for 20 years. The 24 year old was born with popliteal pterygium syndrome, resulting in a club foot, webbed fingers on both hands, a cleft lip and palate and the inability to straighten his legs. As a 5 year old wheelchair user, after 15 operations, he decided he would rather be a double amputee and walk with prosthetics.
As an 8 year old he said he would swim at the 2004 Paralympics and was true to his word, winning gold in the 200m individual medley in world record time. He has for some time also been competing in paratriathlon and is a possible starter in Rio 2016.
Garcia is a spokesperson for the Challenged Athletes Foundation, the charitable organization supporting the Paratri in San Diego. The Foundation was founded by Jim McLaren in 1997, fittingly McLaren was posthumously inducted into the USA Triathlon Hall of Fame at a function during this San Diego ITU World Triathlon.
“This was a beautiful race, ITU San Diego do a great job, the venue is very accessible for us paratriathletes, the swim was beautiful with warm water and the bike nice and flat which I love and the run was fast so all in all, a beautiful day,” said Garcia upon completion of his race.
“We have created a movement, I have been a part of the Challenged Athletes Foundation for 20 years now, when I first started, this paratri was just a far distance dream, to have it come together and to see countries and athletes participate in a paratri race it is raising awareness but we are paving the way for a younger generation. In 2020 - 2024 now when those Olympics and Paralympics come around all the youngsters here are going to be taking the gold then, so we are hoping to endorse for all other Challenge athletes out there and we are paving the way, so it is a good time.”
Jose Ramos had made the trip from his home in Washington DC to compete in the TRI 4 category and loved the challenge of the course.
“That was tough, a fun course though. I am from Washington DC and found the local people very supportive; I lived here for a while back in 200 – 2004 so it is good to be back in San Diego with good weather.
“It is great to promote the USA Paralympic team and the injured Marine Corps and raise some awareness for those who are disabled or injured overseas or are born with disabilities.”
Patricia Walsh was racing despite a disrupted build up but was glad she made the start line in the TRI 6a category on a perfect day for racing.
“Kerry was brave enough to step up at the last minute and help me, coming down from Edmonton, we raced last time together at I have had a lot of injuries this year so I was more nervous than ever, but Kerry was a fantastic natural guide and I thought she did a pretty strong race.
“I love the international presence, particularly the para athletes I love that our sport is starting to get a bit more creditability with some very elite athletes out there and very challenging races which is what we want, particular to prepare for 2016.
“It is so exciting, the numbers have doubled from the past two years, what we are seeing is some of the elite athletes from other sports like paralympic swimming and cycling and as a result we are seeing our competition take a big jump, which is what we all wanted, this is great for paralympic triathlon.”
TRI 5 competitor Jamie Brown of nearby Carlsbad loved the chance to race in front of family and friends in an event right on his doorstep.
“It was good, I did well until I got off the bike and started cramping, it is early in the season, I’m still getting in shape I guess. Especially because I am from San Diego so that is special and then in conjunction with Gwen winning yesterday is awesome experience for all USA triathlon so it is great. A lot of the ITU races are hard for my family to get to so I have a lot of support here. They had a great chance and opportunity to come and see me race here and I couldn’t ask for anything better. The support from everyone was great, every turn people are yelling USA so I can’t ask for more than that.”