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“By being last, I obviously didn’t want to be last. I wanted to just beat one kid in swimming, running or whatever it was. I just wanted to get a little bit faster. Having that mindset of ‘getting a little bit faster’ is really what took me all around the world on a competitive world stage. Just wanting to be a little bit better each day and each time I compete…It was a slow progression of keep moving forward and really not letting the naysayers get to you. When you’re doing something unique and different, there will always be people who say that will not be possible or something negative about it.”
Rudy Garcia-Tolson is a four-time U.S. Paralympian in swimming and track. He has got a truly inspiring story that starts with being born with popliteal pterygium syndrome that resulted in a club foot, webbed fingers on both hands, a cleft lip and the inability to straighten his legs.
At 5 years old and after many operations, he made the decision to amputate both of his legs and move forward with his life on prosthetics. This allowed him to get his start in sports and primarily swimming where he’d usually be the last one to finish races. He never gave up and set incremental goals along the way, which eventually landed him representing the U.S. at the 2004 Summer Games in Athens. When it comes to running, he has set American records in his age group and classification in distances from the 400 meters to the half marathon. He has also completed an Ironman.
In addition to all of that, he’s done a lot of work with New York Road Runners in guiding kids with disabilities to get their own start in sports and running. You’d think that four Paralympics would be enough for someone but the pandemic has bought him an extra year to try and make a run for a 5th. He was recently profiled in The New York Times about this because there was a point where he had to improvise and just run 10 miles in Brooklyn without much else to do for training. We hope you all learn more about everything Rudy has had to overcome and persevere.
Read Rudy’s story in the New York Times by Matthew Futterman.