Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Can World's Strongest Dad

A true story of inspiration for all of us

The video points to Dick Hoyt competing in triathlons with his son Rick, and when you first look it won't take long to see this is a video with a difference.

Something happens, you see, when people see Dick Hoyt.

It started 45 years ago, when Rick was born in Massachusetts, US, with the umbilical cord wrapped around his neck cutting off the oxygen to his brain and Dick and his wife Judy were told there was basically no hope for Rick.

He had little hope of development and it was best to put him away, the doctors said.

When Rick was eight months old the same doctors told his father that he would be virtually a vegetable all his life and that they may as well put him in a home.

"It's been a story of exclusion ever since he was born," Dick says on his website,

Dick and Judy didn't put Rick away, though.

They played with him and laughed with him, and when two younger brothers came along the Hoyts soon became convinced that Rick was as intelligent as either of them.

Dick wanted to put his son in school but because Rick couldn't talk the school authorities told him Rick could never understand.

"Tell him a joke," Dick said.

They moved uncomfortably.

"Tell him a joke."

Rick laughed at their joke.

So Rick went to school, and even way back then in the early 1970s they built him a computer that enabled Rick to put his thoughts into words and he got along fine.

So Rick was off to school.

Then one day a schoolmate was paralysed in a car accident and the school organised a charity fun run.

"Dad," Rick typed, "I want to do that."

Dick had never run in his life.

Still, he did it for Rick, pushed him the whole 8km, and when he hit the finish line Dick was as sore as sore can be, and glad it was over.

Then Rick typed something.

"Dad," he said, "when we were running I felt like I wasn't disabled anymore."

That did it for Dick. He began training – swimming and running, riding the bike.

So much so they did the Boston marathon in 1983 four years after being denied entry, with Dick pushing Rick all the way.

After that they went into ironman triathlons. A 3.8km swim, 180km bike leg and 42km marathon at the end of it.

Dick's pot-belly had long disappeared and Rick, who had never walked, was now floating on clouds.

"Dad is one of my role models," Rick says on the website. "Once he sets out to do something, Dad sticks to it whatever it is, until it is done.

"For example, once we decided to really get into triathlons, dad worked out, up to five hours a day, five times a week, even when he was working."

So much has happened since.

Rick graduated from high school and now lives by himself and holds down a job.

Then Dick had a mild heart attack four years ago during a race. Doctors found one of his arteries was 95 per cent blocked – and said that if he hadn't been so fit he'd have been dead.

World's strongest dad . . .

Now to that video. So much is downloaded these days.

Such is the world we live in, people can get just about anything they like on the net.

But somewhere along the line, among all the hate videos and celebrations of violence, among all the rage and division, somebody put together a video of Rick and Dick and, well, give it a try, it might just change something for you.

It's on, and if you type "can world's strongest dad" in the search window Dick and Rick will pop up.

What you get is more than Dick and Rick competing together. You get the chance to watch those around them.

Volunteers and fellow competitors, people who get to see some pretty special athletes do some pretty special things as part of the everyday, affected by two honest, good men.

What you get to see is that, at a time when anybody can drive their hate, when the net is a free-for-all, there are still some pretty impressive people out there.


21stCenturyMom said...

I love the story about the Hoyts. I have a nephew who is quite disabled with CP - to the point where holding up his head is a chore and he has virtually no control over his arms. But if you strap him in a stand he can propel himself forward so he races in the Special Olympics. He has been put on ice skates and skis, too. The joy on his face when he is launched in motion is enough to make a person's smile muscle go into a state of rigor.

dpeach said...

Great post Mal. Did you hear the Endurance Planet episode with Dick?

I first learned about them a year ago when I started running. Such an inspiration.

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