There were two options for Rudy Garcia-Tolson when he was 5-years old -- continue to spend time in a wheelchair or have both his legs amputated.
At age 5, he chose amputation.
"I see that as when my life really started," Garcia-Tolson said in an article on Ironman.com. "It was a blessing. I started a new life. I have no regrets -- it was was the best choice I ever made. I don't think I'd be as motivated now if I had legs."
The 21-year old finished Sunday's Ironman Arizona in 16 hours, six minutes and 27 seconds. He swam the 2.4-mile course in 1:00:42, rode the 112-mile bike course in 8:44:45 and ran 26.2 miles in 6:00:22.
Garcia-Tolson already is an accomplished athlete with gold medals in the 200 individual medley in the 2004 and 2008 Paralympic Games. He began the first bilateral above-the knee amputee to finish a 70.3 race using a standard bike.
His goal of becoming the first bilateral above-the knee amputee to finish the Kona World Championships last month fell eight minutes short of the bike cut-off.
That was disappointing to him, but not devastating.
"The real disability is having a negative attitude," he said on Ironman.com.
In the professional race on Sunday, Jordan Rapp and Samantha McGlone set course records to pick up wins. Rapp, who finished third in Arizona twice, picked up his second Ironman win after taking Ironman Canada in August. McGlone, meanwhile, started slow in the swim, coming out of the water 10th, then crawled into second place on the bike. She took the lead around Mile 8 of the marathon, running a 3:10:10 over 26.2 miles for her first Ironman win. (See the full pro recap here.)
Local finishers at Ironman Arizona included:
Patrick Dalton, Jr. (26, Cheektowaga) 13:54:28
Tim Dieffenbach (51, Holland) 15:57:47
Brian Foster (36, East Amherst) 11:55:46
Anthony Garrow (54, North Tonawanda) 12:30:08
Diane Sardes (57, North Tonawanda) 14:34:54
Jeff Tracy (40, Lockport) 13:57:45
Greg Weber (47, Amherst) 12:31:33
--- Amy Moritz
Follow Journey to the Finish Line on Twitter at www.twitter.com/amymoritz