RYE, N.Y. -- When Willie Stewart’s left arm got tangled in a rope and torn from his body in a 1980 construction accident, he emerged with a rudimentary prosthetic and what he thought was a thwarted future. Gone were the dreams for the all-state wrestling champion and leading rugby player.
Two years later, ‘One Arm Willie’ captained Washington D.C.’s top rugby club at the National Championships and has never stopped challenging himself or his courage. He’s twice competed on the US Disabled Nordic Paralympic ski team and won a silver medal at the 2002 Games. He’s competed in two Hawaii Ultra Running Team 100 mile runs -- which have a 10% finish rate -- multiple Ironman triathlons, solo kayaked the Grand Canyon, and plans to compete in his 7th Leadville 100, one of the world's most challenging mountain bike races. Just last month he won the Physically Challenged Division of the NYC Triathlon.
“I love the Westchester Triathlon,” says Willie, who dedicates himself to the Challenged Athletes Foundation (CAF), one of the Westchester Triathlon’s recipient charities. In addition to financially supporting CAF, the Westchester Triathlon fully integrates kids and adults with disabilities into its races.
‘There is no separate race, no ‘disabled time’ – it’s everybody time,” he continues. This September 24, Willie will travel from his home in Idaho and together with CAF will support 60 children with disabilities in the Westchester Kids Triathlon. They hope adult challenged athletes from this region register and compete.
“There are spectators at the Westchester Triathlon who think, ‘I could never do this swim, bike and run race,’ and then they see a child or adult with a prosthetic leg or arm, or who is in a wheelchair competing, and they realize, ‘what’s my excuse? I can do this too’.
“I care about the courage it takes for someone to step up to the starting line, whether it’s a challenged athlete or first time triathlete. It’s about courage and believing in yourself, “ he explains.
Stewart and other athletes will compete in the Westchester Triathlon this September 25.