San Diego Triathlon Challenge Raises $1 Million

Once again 100 of the world's top challenged athletes inspired and amazed onlookers at the San Diego, California, Triathlon Challenge, a half-Ironman event on Sunday, November 2. Sponsored by the Loma Linda University Orthopaedic & Rehabilitation Institute, the tenth annual event included 450 celebrities, professional athletes, and participants who raised more than $1 million for the Challenged Athletes Foundation (CAF).

Teenaged challenged athlete Rudy Garcia-Tolson teamed up with actor Robin Williams and triathlon legend Scott Tinley. Garcia-Tolson is the athletically gifted 15-year-old boy who is missing both his legs above the knee and competes in triathlons all over the country. Garcia-Tolson, who is trying to make the 2004 Paralympic swim team, swam 1.2 miles of ocean water in under 26 minutes.

"Rudy's my hero," said six-time participant Williams, who biked 56 miles. "All these athletes are my heroes. I look forward to this race every year."

The event began when the Challenged Athletes Foundation presented a hand cycle to Jason Wietling, a wheelchair-bound Marine paralyzed this spring during the war in Iraq. Wietling plans to compete in triathlons as a challenged athlete.

After the event Garcia-Tolson made a pair of surprise presentations to two youths that are also missing both legs above the knee. Ossur North America, Great Plains Rehab, and Loma Linda Orthotics & Prosthetics partnered with CAF to give a new pair of running prostheses to five-year-old Jake Frank of North Dakota, who had never worn a pair of running legs before. Garcia-Tolson then gave a new hand cycle to eight-year-old Paige Looney of California. The gift was the girl's first bike.

Also participating was the 2003 CAF Inspirational Athlete Award winner Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah, a young man from Ghana who was born with a mangled right leg. In 2000, aided by a mountain bike and clothes from the CAF, he rode 610 kilometers around Ghana to spread the message that disability does not mean inability.

The CAF was established in 1994 to help athletes with a disability gain independence and break barriers others have set before them. Their only limitation is access to funding. The CAF has worked hard to remove that obstacle by raising $4.9 million and helping more than 1,100 challenged athletes internationally.

For more information, call the CAF office at 858.793.9293 or visitwww.challengedathletes.org