Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Commitment (01/05/12)
TITLE: A Tribute to Todd
By Sandra Fischer
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Oblivious to those watching, the potential “Ironmen” are pulling themselves through the water, each stroke a commitment toward a goal – to complete the first leg of the Louisville Triathlon, a grueling 2.4 mile swim in the Ohio course. To some participants, this is merely a minor prelude to the second event - bicycling 112 miles, only to be followed by a 26 mile marathon run – the crowning event for those “ironmen” who earn the name by finishing.
Some contestants are driven by personal vain glory, others by a deep-seated desire to prove they can join the ranks of an elite minority. Some spectators question the sanity of anyone taking on such an arduous race, while others cheer as if they are personally invested. Todd Chandler is one of these. Three members of his family are in the race and all because of him.
Todd is the second of four sons born to Jim and Carol Chandler, parents who encouraged each boy to reach his full potential in every endeavor as they grew up. Sports were an important part of family life for the Chandlers. Todd’s brothers participated in every arena from baseball to football to basketball to cross-country, achieving success and meeting the challenges of competition.
For Todd, life itself is a challenge. Born with Down Syndrome, he was not expected to live more than a few years. Yet, through the loving commitment and care of his parents and brothers, through surgeries and therapy, through his zest to live, he has survived and thrived. Todd has always been an inspiration to his family as he strives to do his best, whether learning basic skills at the special needs training center or working part-time at McDonald’s. What he loved most was following the sporting events of brothers, Eric, Brian and Kevin. Whatever sport, wherever they played, Todd, their most enthusiastic fan, was there. And, when he had his own opportunity to participate in Special Olympics events, his brothers reciprocated, cheering him on as he brought home his own medals. The family bonding stretched over the years to include extended family as the brothers married and had children.
As a way to honor Todd and to support others with Down Syndrome, the brothers conceived the idea to do the 2011 Louisville Triathlon. Brian, Kevin and Kevin’s wife, Megan, jumped on the prospect, but brother Eric, would not be able to participate due to lingering sports injuries. The three Chandlers began daily training a year before the event. To underscore their commitment, they sought sponsorships to support Down Syndrome foundations. They had witnessed Todd race through life against many odds over the years. The Triathlon is their way to race against formidable odds as a tribute to Todd. At the same time they hope to create a greater awareness and respect for people with Down Syndrome.
Today they are putting their resolve to the test; to succeed the Chandlers must complete the course under the maximum 17 hour time limit. As they pass different points on the course, they push through fatigue and pain, reaching deep inside for the will, the diligence to complete what they purpose to do. Soaking with sweat, panting for air, each finds new strength with one vision and one motivating thought - O.K., Todd, this is for you. You never gave up, so neither will I.
The most demanding part of the race is transitioning from the bike to the pavement for the 26 mile marathon. Wobbly legs scream for a break, but the will to finish commands the rubbery legs to find new strength. One more stride, one more stride. Todd never quit. I won’t either.
Kevin crosses the finish line first, followed within a short span of time by Megan and finally by Brian. All complete the race in less than 15 hours. Fans cheer and raise high fives to.the new Triathlon Ironmen – and Ironwoman, but one exuberant fan stands out above the rest – the one to whom they give tribute and the one for whom it means so much – Todd.
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