Written by: Bob Babbit
It’s a major test. Rudy Garcia-Tolson is hoping to become the first double-above-the-knee amputee to complete the long course this weekend’s Wildflower Triathlon. Then, in October, an even bigger challenge: The Ford Ironman World Championships in Kona, Hawaii.
Rudy Garcia-Tolson is 20 years old now, and we have watched him grow up right in front of our eyes since he did his first triathlon relay back when he was seven years old. Born with a birth defect that left him with two non-functioning legs, Rudy endured 15 operations before, when he was all of five years old, he made the decision to have his legs amputated above the knee. “They just didn’t work and I was tired of being in a wheelchair or crawling on the ground,” he recalls. “I wanted to run and play like the other kids.”
Eventually, through his athletic exploits, Rudy Garcia-Tolson started changing the perception of what someone missing his legs could accomplish. He swam 2:42 in the 200 individual medley to take home the Paralympic Gold Medal from Athens in 2004 when he was 16 and then went even faster in Beijing (2:35) to win his second gold and to shatter his own world record. He has run a mile in under six minutes and he has been showcased around the world on Nightline, Dateline, Oprah and The Disney Channel.
So what does this young man who has swam for over ten years now on a triathlon relay team called Team Braveheart with Academy Award Winner Robin Williams cycling and two-time Ironman champion Scott Tinley running do for an encore?
He has hooked up with triathlon’s trainer-to-the- stars Paul Huddle and his goal is to finish the long distance triathlon at Wildflower on Saturday May 2nd.
It’s not going to be easy. Because he is missing both legs above the knee, Garcia-Tolson can not access quad or hamstring muscles. That means he needs to generate all of his power out of his glutes. “With all of that hard climbing during he bike ride, Wildflower will be a challenge,” says Huddle. “But anyone who knows Rudy understands just how tough a competitor he is.”