Not Slowing Down: Disabled Tucsonan wins world championship - Tucson News Now

Not Slowing Down: Disabled Tucsonan wins world championship

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TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) -

There's an ancient saying is that in a sound body is a sound mind, and Gerard Ah-Fook believes that. He's a veteran who lost his leg in a boating accident, while in the service, back in 1999. But he hasn't let that slow him down.

He says, "being active to me is probably the most important thing to help me be a better person in all the other roles in my life. To be a better husband. To be a better father...it helps create the confidence that I need to know that I can do the things I need to do." Gerard is a family man. He's a husband, and a father of three. He's also an athlete, and a champion. 

Gerard competes in the paraduathlon. A race for disabled athletes combining the hand cycle, and the road chair. Gerard trains a minimum of 14, a maximum of 20 hours a week in Tucson. He travels to races around the world, and earlier this summer won the International Triathlon Union's world championship in Canada. When he won, he says "the thoughts were spinning in my head so fast about why I was here and how I was here and who had I had to thank for getting me here...I'm a still on a buzz from that moment."

But Gerard says that moment, is less important than the thousands of moments and hours he puts into training and staying strong, Physically and mentally. He says, "if your mind is the machine, then you're going to need a strong machine if you're going to get knocked down. If you get your legs taken away from you, if you get one or another ability taken away from you, you still want a strong machine because it's still going to carry you through to anything else you want to do in your life."

Gerard's wife Mitzellah knew him before his accident. She says he's been consistent in how he attacks every part of life, "his attitude, his personality. That hasn't changed. He's just that much more motivated to do things that he wants to do."

Gerard says the sad reality is - more vets are coming home with disabilities. He hopes they're able to get the opportunities he's gotten to raise their confidence. He says, "you can imagine that you meet a lot of people that want to first offer their pity. Or share how sad that I must be or that they are with my situation. And that confidence is key to just kind of carrying through...I'm probably doing more than I thought I could ever do before I was injured."

Gerard got a surprise phone call this summer - from the man who was driving the boat that ran him over back in 1999. The man had been a friend, and a fellow sailor in the navy, but they hadn't talked since the accident. Was Gerard angry, absolutely not. "I was so happy that he called - and so upset - because for so many years I wanted him to know that I didn't hold anything against him. I was so upset that he waited so long to do that...I told him I love you. And you should have talked to me sooner."

Gerard will continue to train and hopes to defend his title next year in Canada. He's also trained at the United States Olympic Committee training center in Colorado, and has dreams of competing in the 2016 Paraolympic Games in Brazil.

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