Tragedy? No! Triumph, Yes!

In Sports, Wheelin' and Dealin' by Akian Aleong

Akian Aleong on his handcycle!

Where do I begin? Well, I just raced the NYC triathlon and came in 3rd in my age group….No, I better go back a little. I am a twenty-two year old double amputee that lives in Southern California. It all started when I was nineteen and I bought my first motorcycle.

Well, that lasted five days before I was in an accident that ended up changing my life for the better. I lost one leg at the accident scene, and due to hospital errors I lost the other three weeks later.

For two months I listened to doctors tell me all the things I would never be able to do again. I just laughed and I remember thinking you have no idea how big of a fire you’re lighting inside me. Accepting my disability took all of a couple minutes. I have always been one to look at the positive in every situation so this was no different.

Two weeks after being out of the hospital I started pushing the hospital chair around the block, and in two months I was up to eight miles.

I came across wheelchair sports and I was so excited. I considered tennis and marathon racing but something just pulled me toward triathlons. Talk about the ultimate athlete.

My first triathlon I borrowed a handcycle and used my hospital wheelchair for the run. I came in 3rd and I was hooked. I knew this was going to become a life long thing and it has.

Everything has just snowballed since that first race. I took a swim class and ended up being the fastest person in the class. I was encouraged to try out for my college swim team and to my surprise I made the team.

Whenever I was not in class or swimming I would spend hours on the internet looking up local triathlons, handcycles and racing chairs.

I did a fund raiser and managed to get enough money for a new handcycle and racing chair. (Thank you to everyone who donated) Once I got my handcycle and racing chair I never looked back.

In early 2004 things went to the next level. I applied to be on the first ever U.S.A Paralympic Triathlon Development Team. The team’s goal is to get triathlons recognized as a sport in the 2008 Paralympics.

Words could not explain how excited and honored I felt when I found out I was selected for the team.

So that brings me back to the wonderful NYC triathlon. The triathlon consisted of a one mile swim, followed by a 25 mile bike, followed by a 6.2 mile run in the race chair. I raced in the challenged athletes division and came in with a time of 2 hours, 9 minutes and 54 seconds. That was fast enough to win the challenge athlete division and put me in 3rd against the able bodied competitors in my age group.

I finished in the top 2% overall out of all the competitors despite the fact that they had a massive advantage over me, they have legs! I have qualified for the 2005 ITU Triathlon World Championships which will take place in Hawaii this October.

I am very excited to represent the United States in this event. I set extremely high standards for myself in the triathlon world.

Next year I will compete in my first of many Ironman races. An Ironman is the ultimate triathlon, it starts with a 2.4 mile swim, followed by a 112 mile bike ride and then finished off with a 26.2 mile run.

I wish I could better explain my drive for triathlons but I just can not seem to find the words. All I know is that I am forever grateful for the chain of events that have lead me to where I am in my life.

People find it hard to believe, but I would not change things for the world. Just the outlook and appreciation I know have for life is worth every challenge I have to face in my day to day life.

I just hope to encourage other people out there to not let there disability hold them back; instead use it as a stepping stone to move forward.

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