Eight-year-old Conner Green was hooked on triathlon after his first race. Not because he won, but because he finally found a sport he could do with his brother, Cayden Long, 6, who has cerebral palsy and cannot walk or talk.
Like a tiny Team Hoyt, Conner swam, biked and ran the Nashville Kids Triathlon with his brother in tow on June 5, 2011, kick-starting his new athletic passion.
“In other sports, you couldn’t really push your younger brother or sister,” Conner says. “Triathlon is unlike other sports like football because it’s not really unfair. This is an open sport.”
That inclusiveness endeared Conner’s parents, Jenny and Jeff Long of White House, Tenn., to triathlon as well, though they didn’t know a thing about the sport when they showed up at the Nashville event.
“We went into it blind, just doing it as a family thing,” Jenny says. “Then it kind of just went boom!”
Conner quit the football team to focus on triathlon, completing three more races with his brother during the summer of 2011 and inspiring hundreds of people along the way; his family’s Team Long Brothers Facebook page now has more than 7,000 fans.
“It’s extraordinary,” Jenny says. “Six years ago when we got Cayden’s diagnosis, everything looked kind of grim. But when we see them cross the finish line together, it’s such a moment in our lives—it’s very hard to describe.”
The finish line is also something special to Conner, who dreams of one day racing an Xterra event with Cayden.
“It makes me happy when we get to finish,” Conner says. “Everybody wants to win, but it’s not all about winning. Really it’s all about fun.”
The Long Brother have been named the 2012 SportsKids of the Year by Sports Illustrated for Kids. See the video below: