If I wasn’t an amputee, I probably wouldn’t have the same drive to do what I do!
"Having no legs is really a gift," says Rudy Garcia-Tolson. "If I wasn’t an amputee, I probably wouldn’t have the same drive to do what I do.” What Rudy does is spend six or seven hours a day in athletic training, routinely break world records in swimming, compete in triathlons, and tour the country as a motivational speaker to spread his message that “A Brave Heart is a Powerful Weapon.”
He's been picked to carry an Olympic torch and named one of People Magazine's 20 teens that will change the world. Oh, and he's buddies with movie star Robin Williams and has appeared on Oprah.
All of that would be a staggering achievement for any young man, but Rudy was born with multiple birth defects: a club foot, webbed fingers on both hands, and a cleft lip and palate.
|Amputation||Bilateral, Above the Knee|
|Competitive Class||S8 / SB7 / SM7|
|Main Events||Swimming: Breaststroke, Freestyle, Butterfly, Individual Medley|
Track and Field: Half, Marathon, Triathlon, 5K
Paralympic Games, London, UK
US Paralympic Championship Trials
Who has been the biggest supporter in your career?
"My mom and my family have been the biggest supporters in my life."
Who first got you interested in your sport and who influenced you to take up a competitive sport?
"After I got my legs amputated I really wanted to get active outside of school activities like basketball and soccer. My dad suggested swimming because I might need to swim sometime in my life. I got a swim instructor and he taught me to be comfortable in the water because I had a lot of fear with water. From there I joined an able-bodied swim team and I made it my first goal to beat a kid with legs. When I finally did that about 6 months later, I knew it was something I wanted to keep doing."
What has been your best career highlight so far?
"My biggest sport highlight is winning my first Paralympic gold medal in Athens 2004. It was my goal since I was 8."
Who has been your toughest opponent and why?
"I believe my biggest rival will be myself"
What is your ultimate sporting ambition?
"My ultimate sporting ambition is to finish an Ironman under 12 hours.. If I can do that, I'll be happy to retire."
Who in your opinion is the greatest athlete ever? / Do you have an idol for your sport?
"Without saying, in the pool it has to be Michael Phelps. He had done everything possible in the pool."
What are your favorite Össur products and why?
"My favorite Össur products are my C-Sprints and my sport liners. I love my C-Sprints cause I can run fast anywhere, on trials and up mountains."
What specific support has Össur provided for you, technical or otherwise?
"Össur has been a supporter of mine since I was 9 years old. To be able to test Össur products and use them every day is truly living a life without limitations."
How has Össur contributed to your success?
"Knowing that I have the whole Össur team behind me gives me an incredible peace of mind. With their products, I can do anything!"
Do you have an inspirational quote or motto that you use?
"My motto is 'A brave heart is a powerful weapon.' It’s not the size of the lion that matters, it's the size of the lions heart."
What is the best advice you have ever been given?
"My mom has told me since I can remember; never let anyone tell you, you cannot do something. If they do, prove them wrong!"
Do you have any pre-event superstitions?
"No pre meet superstitions...I am confident with my training knowing however I perform, it was my best."
Who would play you in a film of your life?
What is on your iPod when you are training?
"I love Lil Wayne, Kanye West, Kid Cudi, to The Mars Volta."
Tell us something we'd be surprised to know about you?
".. I love love love hot cheetos.. I can eat pizza everyday if I could."
What is the worst part of your training regime?
"Waking up at 6am every morning, but if it was easy, everyone would do it."
If you weren't an athlete what would you be doing?
".. I would be a fat couch potato with no motivation, or going to school.. "
What do you like doing outside of your sport?
"I love hiking in the mountains, fishing or going out and eating with my friends. I also love motivational speaking!"
When you have time to see your friends, what do you like to do?
"We love to go eat food, go paintballing, or skateboard."
At age five, having already undergone 15 surgeries, he had to choose between life in a wheelchair and walking with artificial limbs. He opted for greater mobility and a full, active life with prosthetics, which necessitated the surgical amputation of both his legs through the knee. Undaunted, he began swimming, then running, and has been winning ever since! By age 15, he had won a Gold medal in the Paralympic Games.
Rudy is able to dream and achieve in large part because of the technologies now available in prosthetics. He uses purposely selected feet from Össur to meet each activity’s needs: the Flex-Run® for track because of its flexibility and light weight. He was also one of the first bilateral amputees to go bionic with two RHEO KNEE's. They are his "every day, everywhere" walking legs and he reports that they make a discernible difference in the quality of his mobility. They make it a lot easier for him to walk up and down stairs, walk faster and slower and to change speeds with greater ease. "I can multitask now," he says. "Talking on my cell phone, carry groceries, and walk down stairs all at once."
While others might be impressed by Rudy because he’s overcome apparent disadvantages, “I don’t ever really think about the fact that I’m an amputee,” he says. “I don’t want to be known as the guy with no legs who inspired everyone; I would just like to be known as a great athlete and someone who is very passionate about what they do.” His stated purpose in life is to be the best. But he also admits that he’s matured over the years and is now beginning to be less concerned with just himself and more about what he can do to increase awareness of the need for better resources and recognition for amputee athletes. “I’m very fortunate being able to train full time for my sport,” he says. “Many world-class Paralympians have to work and then train.” He points out that they put in the same hours and dedication as any athlete, yet tend to be neglected by the mainstream sports media. He hopes his achievements can impact that situation.
Rudy’s latest endeavor is the IronMan World Championship in Kona, Hawaii. On October 10, 2009 he will line up with the other competitors to prove he is truly an IronMan.