Rajesh Durbal is the first triple amputee to compete in, and finish, the Hawaii Ironman. He'll participate in the annual St. Anthony's Triathlon tomorrow.
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - It's been called "Race of the Year."
Sunday's 29th annual St. Anthony's Triathlon will have athletes from all over the world descending upon St. Petersburg.
With every stroke, Rajesh Durbal gets closer to his goal. This is an easy swim compared to the one he'll do on Sunday in St. Anthony's Triathlon. "This venue is an awesome course. There's so many great athletes out here, the swim is hard," he says.
This is his second time participating in this triathlon. He's trying to improve his time from 2011. "I hope to just do something under 2:40. If I could do around 2:40, I'd be happy with that."
But, he says just finishing is an accomplishment.
Rajesh is a triple amputee. He was born with a congenital deformity of both lower legs and the right arm. At 6 months old, doctors amputated his lower legs. He says it's a blessing.
"You learn how to appreciate life and the simplicity of life. Once you reach that struggling, suffering phase, and pass it, you're really able to enjoy life and the simplicity of what you have."
Rajesh has far surpassed even his own expectations. In a short time, he's become a strong athlete. He is the first triple amputee to compete in, and finish, the Hawaii Ironman.
"I decided to do something I could never do to test my faith, and triathlon was one of them," says Durbal.
Rajesh does face challenges, like changing prosthetics between swimming and biking or running, and the race puts a lot of trauma on his legs. But, the thought of giving up never crosses his mind.
"No matter what you're thinking about yourself in life, you need to perceive yourself as somebody who is victorious. No matter where you are in life, no matter which area, and don't let go of that. Keep it close to you and don't let anything or anybody take that away from you."
Rajesh isn't just an inspiration on the course, he's also changing lives through his Life Free foundation, which gives back to challenged athletes.
You can visit that site here: http://www.live-free.net/