Pushing Your Limits
Posted: Tuesday, April 14, 2009
Lauren Hinton | Challenged Athlete Foundation
Has anyone ever told you “No!” or “You’ll never be able to do that.”? How did that make you feel? Did it discourage you, or fuel your fire to take the challenge head-on?
For many of us, these “challenges” are invisible or not obvious to the general public. It might be a personal goal, dream or something that’s never been done before. And when it’s never been done before, it’s that much more daunting of a “challenge,” unless you’re Rudy Garcia-Tolson.
Twenty year-old Rudy Garcia-Tolson, a bilateral above-knee amputee and world record holder and Paralympic champion in the 200 meter IM, of Bloomington, California lives by a very meaningful mantra, “A brave heart is a powerful weapon.” From a very young age Rudy’s “brave heart,” gave him the strength to overcome challenges greater than anyone thought possible. Even as a kid, he understood that you are not defined by what people say you “can’t do,” but by what you can. He never took no for an answer. In fact, when he’s told he can’t do something, it motivates him to push the limits even more.
“I love to prove people wrong” say Garcia-Tolson. “People all too often look at negative feedback and doubt as a bad thing. I look at it as an opportunity. It drives me that much more to prove them wrong.”
What started as a young kid born with challenging circumstances, just wanting to be active like the other kids, has lead to a movement of changing perceptions. When Rudy was only five years-old he had the courage to tell doctors to amputate his legs, as a birth defect kept him confined to a wheelchair. It’s this courage and Rudy’s “brave heart” that pushed him to look beyond what had been done before.
2009 will be filled with more “firsts” for Rudy. It’ll be the first time a bilateral above-knee amputee will take on the Wildflower Long Course, which Rudy says is a must on the “to do list.” And Wildflower, as challenging of a course as it is, is just part of Rudy’s training for the big “to do” – the Ironman World Championship in Kona. Ever since Rudy saw Sarah Reinertsen finish the Ironman in 2005, it has been a goal of his.
The road to Kona is different for Rudy than it is for most folks; even different from all the physically challenged participants in the past. If Rudy is selected, he will be the first bilateral above-knee amputee to compete. The significance is that he has that much less power in his lower body to work with than any other physically challenged competitors outside of the wheelchair division. With that being said, he’s taking precautions where ever he can and working very closely with his prosthetist, Michael Davidson, to try new things with his prosthetics legs. Together, they continue to make improvements to his equipment, with the goal of generating more power on the bike and preventing pounding on his stumps.
These advancements, as well as the visibility Rudy has gained through out the years, have allowed Rudy to be a guiding light to the next generation of bilateral amputee kids. Now he sees them and says that “they’re the one’s that are really going to change things” and CAF has started to see that happen. But, this movement was only made possible through Rudy’s example.
With his strong passion for sport and competition, Rudy has been fearless in paving the way for other bilateral above-knee amputee challenged athletes. Thanks to the support from the Challenged Athletes Foundation, innovative products from Ossur and exceptional care from his prosthetist Michael Davidson of Loma Linda University, Rudy has been able to set the stage for a new generation of amputee kids. By following Rudy’s lead, they now have the courage to pursue sports and push themselves in life.
Slowly, the torch is being passed to other bilateral amputees who have taken it upon themselves to spread the idea of having a “brave heart” and creating hope for other challenged athletes. Seven year-old Cody McCasland of Colleyville, Texas is getting the spotlight for his bright outlook, competitive spirit and involvement with our country’s injured military personnel. He recently changed the life of a U.S. Marine who injured while serving our country, and acts as a CAF spokesperson to other disabled kids and their families who are looking for help.
In today’s world of instant communication, it only takes the actions of one to change the perceptions of many. Athletes like Rudy Garcia-Tolson, Cody McCasland and Oscar Pistorius – the world record holder and Paralympic champion in his category for the 100, 200 and 400 meter sprints – are doing just that. They’re taking action and constantly pushing the limits; because really, what are the limits anyway?
To track Rudy in his Ironman quest, follow the “CAFoundation” Twitter account. He’ll be “tweeting” on a regular basis to keep everyone abreast of his trials, tribulations and triumphs throughout this training.
The Challenged Athletes Foundation (CAF) is proud to support Rudy and all of the challenged athletes competing in the 2009 Avia Wildflower Triathlons, and sincerely thanks Tri-California for all their continued support. Be sure to stop by the CAF booth during the festival for an exciting raffle and to learn how you can, “Race For A Reason” and change the life of a deserving physically challenged individual.