A few years ago they didn’t even know each other. But now, brought together by what they’ve each lost, three Texas amputee athletes will attempt to tackle a triathlon together.
Jennifer Teague Clark of Fort Worth was the first to have her life changed forever. Seven years ago, a benign tumor grew out of control during a pregnancy. The only resulting choice was amputation of her left leg above the knee.
Three years ago, Roy Martin of Fort Worth went to his normal job at a local steel factory.
"Next thing I know my foot was crushed,” he said of the accident with a powerful steel press machine. “I’m watching my foot being crushed.
The accident resulted in the amputation of his right leg just below the knee.
“The driver, she just kept coming,” said Caitlin Conner of Chappell Hill, Texas. She was on a motorcycle with her husband near Fort Worth two years ago when a driver, texting and driving, smashed into them. The accident cost Caitlin her left leg just below the knee.
But the feeling-sorry-for-themselves period didn't last long. Because each found out they were athletes – with places to go and things to do.
"That was one of my first goals that I was determined to do after I lost my leg was I was going to run again,” said Clark, an avid athlete in high school.
"But once I got that (prosthetic) leg, it was on,” said Martin, who is now an athlete in the National Amputee Boxing Association.
So why not, they thought, take it one big step more?
They met at Baker Orthotics and Prosthetics, a manufacturer of artificial limbs in Fort Worth since the 1940’s. Clark, already a successful amputee athlete, would team up with Connor and Martin to tackle the Aspen Medical Products San Diego Triathlon Challenge.
In an event designed for adaptive athletes and scheduled for the water and shores of La Jolla October 23, Jennifer will do the 1-mile swim, Roy will handle the 10-mile run, and Caitlin will attempt the 44-mile bike course.
"It was really Cait,” Martin said of who they jokingly blame for getting them to take part in the event.
"It is her fault,” laughed Clark.
But they agreed to face this next challenge as a team: a team called “Three Legs are Better Than One.” And they’re not necessarily doing it to prove anything, other than just share the journey.
"In our everyday lives we're not the normal,” said Clark. “We're the different ones. So we can actually come together and be in our own element through sports.
“We don’t really like to be called that we’re an inspiration. Only because we’re doing stuff that everybody does. We’re doing something that anybody could do.
"When you've had a chance to lose your life you start to respect all the aspects of your life. Even the bad stuff,” said Conner.
"Either you let it fold you or you let it drive you,” said Martin. “So I choose to let it drive me, and never fold."
So three athletes who refuse to fold will tackle a triathlon together. Teaching us that life throws you curves. Life sometimes takes things away.
"I can't show my kids that when you're hurting, you give up, take off, just lay down, quit,” said Martin.
No. Instead, together, they choose to fight and prove to themselves that a challenging and rewarding life goes on.