I had the amazing opportunity of being invited to Puerto Rico this past week. Almost one year ago, at IronKids Orlando, I was
approached by a boy, Jochi, and his family. Their exact words were “how can my son do what you are doing in his home country of Puerto Rico?” I continued to see him through out the year at several different youth triathlon races and fostered his idea to follow in my footsteps. With the support of his family, he did just that!
Within months he formed the ground work for Team Jochi and found a platform. He wants to expose kids of Puerto Rico to the sport of triathlon and help fund treatments for cancer for the youth that can’t be treated in Puerto Rico and help other charitable causes such as Team Winter. While I was visiting this week, his website, HYPERLINK "http://www.teamjochi.com" www.teamjochi.com was launched.
Jochi received the Team Winter IronKids Award at last years IronKids National Championships. He exemplified the spirit of being an IronKid and racing not only for himself but for a cause. Being invited to his home country where youth triathlon does not exist has been an incredible opportunity. I went into numerous schools with Jochi and togther we introduced an unkown sport to these kids. Upon first mentioning the word “triathlon”, none of the kids had ever participated in one, let alone really know what one was. By the end of the presentation about ¼ of the kids said they would like to try one.
The response from the kids in Puerto Rico has been amazing. I would go home at night and the kids would be reaching out to me through facebook and twitter, wanting to learn more about triathlon and how they could help my cause. I had a 2nd grader ask me where he could learn to swim. Amazingly enough, most of the swimming facilities are closed to the youth in Puerto Rico. Not even a well trained athlete like Jochi is allowed to train in some of the swimming facilities. There are very few sports for kids until they reach high school. The youth in Puerto Rico are not given the opportunities in sports at a young age like in many countries.
I was invited to the floor of the Congress of Puerto Rico on Monday afternoon. This is a place where the public is usually not allowed. An exception was made to bring me out onto the floor with 100,000 TV viewers watching. My story was presented Senator Hon. Camelo Rios. All the senators greeted my family and I and presented me with an award honoring my accomplishments and efforts for prostate cancer awareness. They have welcomed me with open arms into their country to help be a role model and promote the sport of youth triathlon in their country. We hope to work together over the next decade and beyond to help raise a new generation of active, healthy kids in Puerto Rico.
I also got in a lot of great training while visiting San Juan. I had a great opportunity to train with their 16 y/o National Cycling Champion, Brandon Martinez. We went on a 33 mile ride and had his cycling coach coaching along side us on a motorized scooter. What a great experience since I will be racing USAT draft-legal triathlons this season. I spent lots of time in the ocean as well. It was so great to be out of a pool for some open water training.
Having the Team Jochi family host myself and my family for over a week was incredible. I saw Jochi’s dad cross the finish line at San Juan 70.3; a year prior he was 45 pounds heavier and had never done a triathlon. Jochi and I volunteered at the finish line for the 70.3 event and putting his dad’s medal on him as he crossed that finish line, brought tears to my eyes. But this is just the beginning. Jochi’s dad, Alberto Garcia, will be beside my mom at Ironman Canada 2011 as she brings him across the finish line. He will be one of the 50 athletes racing for Team Winter/Team Newton. You see, Alberto is a cancer survivor. He knows he is one of the lucky ones. It might have taken 20 years and the strength of his 14 y/o son to get him off the coach, but it is never too late to make a difference. To help Jochi’s dad, Alberto Garcia, or my mom, Dawn Estelle with their fundraising goals please visit:
HYPERLINK "http://athletes.kintera.org/faf/donorReg/donorPledge.asp?ievent=452671&lis=1&kntae452671=6558E8D8E4544D71B4B731100CD262BC&supId=319523736" http://athletes.kintera.org/faf/donorReg/donorPledge.asp?ievent=452671&lis=1&kntae452671=6558E8D8E4544D71B4B731100CD262BC&supId=319523736
HYPERLINK "https://www.kintera.org/faf/donorReg/donorPledge.asp?ievent=452671&supId=252260476" https://www.kintera.org/faf/donorReg/donorPledge.asp?ievent=452671&supId=252260476
I hope Jochi’s story inspires you to make a difference!
Don’t worry Puerto Rico, Team Winter will be back!
Never Give In!