John Maclean was training to do a triathlon 26 years ago when he was hit by a truck while cycling and paralyzed from the waist down. John became, on his third attempt, the first handcycle athlete to finish the Ironman Triathlon World championship under all of the cut off times in 1997. He moved on from the Ironman and swam the English Channel, sailed in the infamous Sydney to Hobart race and competed in the Paralympics in rowing. Due to a new therapy technique, John is now able to walk the beach with his wife and son -check out 60 Minutes Australia for the unbelievable story- and his plan now is to race that same triathlon he was training for when he was paralyzed 26 years ago.
They are two of the best athletes on the planet. One is a sprinter on the track with personal bests of 10.91 for 100 meters, 21.7 for 200 meters, and 49.3 for 400 meters. In London in 2012, he took a bronze at 200 meters and a silver at 400 meters. The other is a swimmer who specializes in the 200 Individual Medley and the breaststroke, and he has two Gold Medals for the 200 IM, one from Athens and one from Beijing, plus a silver from London. But Blake Leeper and Rudy Garcia-Tolson are much more than just great athletes. They are both missing both legs – Blake below the knee and Rudy above the knee – and they are changing perceptions about what someone with a disability can accomplish. Having them in studio together was really special.
Marko Cheseto grew up in Kenya and ended up running at the University of Alaska at Anchorage. He had no idea what snow looked like or where it came from before arriving there. He was a 29 minute 10K guy who ended up losing both legs below the knee. He is back running 39 minutes for 10K and 65 seconds for 400 meters. His goal now is to get the Paralympic Games in Rio in 2016. He came in studio with Huddle and me to share his unbelievable story.
Katy Sullivan is a 100 meter specialist who is heading over to London for her first ever Paralympic experience. Born without legs above the knee, Katy didn’t get into athletics until she was 25 years old, but she’s definitely making up for lost time.
Blake Leeper is 22 years old and has only been running for three years. But right now, the double below knee amputee 100, 200 and 400 meter specialist just might be the guy who can knock off the great Oscar Pistorius at the Paralympics in London.
Rudy Garcia-Tolson had both legs amputated above the knee when he was only five years old. At the age of six he discovered swimming and in 2004 he went 2:42 for the 200 IM, set the world record, and won the Gold Medal in the Paralympics. In Beijing in 2008 he won Gold again and in 2009 he became the first double above knee amputee to finish an Ironman Triathlon when he completed Ironman Arizona. So what does the 22 year old do for an encore? He’s training for the Paralympics in London for swimming, and at the Endeavor Games this past weekend he ran 5:22 for 1500 meters, 32 for 200 meters and 64 for 400 meters. Try that with no legs!
On Saturday December 10th 2010, it was officially announced that triathlon had been accepted into the Paralympic Games starting in 2016. Above knee amputee Sarah Reinertsen, Amazing Race contestant and Ironman World Championship finisher, came on the show to discuss the impact.