BEIJING - SEPTEMBER 07: Rudy Garcia Tolson of USA competes in the Men's 200m Individual Medley - SM7 at the National Aquatics Centre on September 7, 2008 in Beijing, China. (Photo by Feng Li/Getty Images)
Join us as we meet and follow BP Team USA, a group of nine U.S. Olympic and Paralympic hopefuls that are aiming to bring home gold from London this summer. Today we meet Paralympic swimmer Rudy Garcia-Tolson.
London will be the third Paralympic Games for Rudy Garcia-Tolson, a two-time gold medalist in swimming, but his first with track and field events added to his schedule.
Garcia-Tolson, who won his first gold when he was just 16 years old, qualified for Team USA at both the 2012 U.S. Paralympic Track and Field Trials and Swimming Trials. He'll swim in the 200m IM and 100m Breaststroke, the latter of which he took home gold in Beijing. In his Paralympic track and field debut, he will be competing in the 200 meter race (T42 class; "Single above knee amputees and athletes with other impairments.").
The multisport schedule is nothing new for Garcia-Tolson, who has been racing triathlons since the age of 9 and in 2009 became the first double above-knee amputee to finish an Ironman Triathlon.
Rudy was born in 1988 with multiple birth defects, including Pterygium Syndrome, a club foot, webbed fingers on both hands, and a cleft lip and palate. But perhaps the worst of it was in his legs, which required 15 surgeries by the time he was five. Then, when he was just 7 years old, Rudy decided he was done with the surgeries and just wanted to "get rid of 'em." He was referring to his legs.
"Am I ever going to run around with other kids on these?" Rudy asked, pointing to his scarred, twisted limbs.
"Doubtful," the surgeons replied. "Your best bet is a set of prosthetic legs."
Rudy thought it over for a good three seconds. "Fine," he announced, in a tone indicating that there was no need to phone up the pre-amputation psych counselor. "Get rid of ‘em."
That same spirit stayed with Rudy, propelling him to compete in the 2004 Paralympic Games, where he won gold in the 200m IM, breaking the world record in his class. He did the same in 2008, winning another gold and setting a new world record, this time in the 100m breaststroke SB7.
When Rudy's not training or competing the Paralympic Games, he travels the country serving as a motivational speaker in which he spreads the word of his personal motto: "A brave heart is a powerful weapon."