Three years ago, Rajesh Durbal became the triple amputated in completing the Hawaii Ironman in Kona, finishing the legendary triathlon in 14 hours, 19 seconds.
That's impressive, but not as impressive as seeing Durbal driving.
Your Ford Focus is not specially equipped. It only takes a manual change. And he's missing a right hand. He changes gears through a wave of gentle movements involving his left arm driving the clutch and gas with his orthopedic legs.
"People ask 'why do not you get an automatic car?' It's a lot easier," says Durbal, a network systems engineer in Orlando, Florida. "I learned with the lever, my father never made anything easy for me. me and I appreciate that I did it that way. "
A hard start
Durbal, 35, was born without bones in both legs and his right arm only partially developed. Before his first birthday, his legs were amputated and he was placed in a full-body mold for three months. He spent most of his first six years in and out of hospitals.
When the sport was oriented, he spent most of his time at the bank. Teachers pointed to him with card games or table tennis. This was in the 80s and early 90s, long before the Challenged Athlete Foundation, performed advanced prosthetics and integrated people with physical disabilities.
His parents born in Trinidad, Raj and Anne Durbal, faced the public school system and resisted suggestions to send him to a special school.
Raj wanted the son to have a normal childhood, which is the same as saying reckless. Therefore, he took him for hiking, skiing and snowshoeing. During a family trip to Niagara Falls, tourists took photographs and videos in which Raj and Rjesh ventured under the falls for a closer look.
As a young adult, Rajesh discovered the Empire State Games for the Physically Challenged and excelled in track tests. This helped him to pursue a degree but daily life continued to be a challenge. He smoked cigarettes and followed a diet of junk food, became depressed and even considered suicide.
The power of triathlon
Religion makes a difference, and Durbal frequently cites his faith. But what really changed things was a decision in early 2009 to enter a triathlon.
Sport has a long history with physically disabled athletes but most have two or three working limbs.
Would the other sports have been easier?
Why not drive a car that was automatic?
Durbal went into training for triathlon, sometimes almost literally, as when two handlers place him in water for the swim out.That and getting help out of the water and within the first transition are the only amenities you accept.
For everything else, he is himself.
He has legs
Durbal takes three sets of legs to the race (legs for bicycle, to run and round to walk) and then there is a bicycle, which is driven on the left side with pads with rest bars that are They rise on the right side to fit your right stump.
His running legs raise his height from 5, 4 feet to 6, 3 feet, which is the height that the doctors projected he could have.
Then there is the water.
Like most swimmers, Durbal breathes every three or four strokes. But he often trains breathing every seven to nine. He uses a suit to swim if others do but prefers to go without him.
"I do not like the advantage it gives in terms of buoyancy and extra agility," he says. "I'm a fighter. I like to make things as difficult as possible. "
That's why he loves running. Actually, he hates running but that is what makes that part his favorite discipline. Most observers see it sliding down the road and assume that you should prefer to swim or ride a bicycle.
They never walked in their shoes; let them run alone 26, 2 miles on them. Running with prostheses that rub against the bare skin of your stumps can be unbearable, which requires a massive force in the central part of the body, something that Durbal has in abundance.
Enjoy the challenge
Currently, Durbal is mainly focused on Olympic distance and half Ironman events. He started a foundation (live-free. Net), developed a triathlon clothing line for disabled athletes and speaks frequently for business groups and schools.
Everyone, it seems, wants to know the details of how nothing, cycling and running.
"Triathlon fits well with my approach to life," says Durbal, "You can train and plan, but there's always something that comes up and you have to adjust, something breaks, your equipment fails, the weather is bad and how you deal with that is what makes it so profitable. "
"In the end, it's simply you against the climatic factors."