One-Legged Wonder

Cover Image: You cannot stop the heart of a champion from going after his passion. (en.wikipilipinas.org) (thenewstoday.info)

There are already different stories about people who have covered thousands of miles in their lifetime as triathletes. You have heard the success stories of kids, of families, of celebrities who race for different reasons. There are already enough of that to inspire you to get on your feet and start going. This is the story of a triathlete who race because running, swimming and cycling completes him.

In 1979, National Track Champion and member of the Philippine Running Team (from 1972-1976), Rodolfo “Mang Rudy” Fernandez was enjoying a film in a movie house in Iloilo when an explosion rocked the theater. The next day, he woke up to find his left leg had been amputated due to injuries sustained in the blast. Ever the athlete, Fernandez’s first thoughts turned to how in the world he was going to compete at the upcoming Hong Kong International Competition race as an amputee. Later on, as the enormity of the loss hit him in earnest, Fernandez found himself harboring thoughts of just ending it all as an alternative to the notion of never running again.
Thankfully, Fernandez had a strong support system. From his three sons and his wife, to the different institutions and personalities who offered him help, everyone gave him the inspiration and drive he needed to get going. The Philippine Band of Mercy fitted him with a fiberglass leg in 1986, which let him begin training for a 104-kilometer run in Iloilo. A year later, race organizer Raffy Uytiepo became Mang Rudy’s coach. Uytiepo, who is himself an athlete, began training Mang Rudy for future international competitions.
 

Rodolfo “Rudy” Fernandez pushed his limits and completed every race even with his physical limitations. (newstoday.info)

 
Since then, Mang Rudy has been racing as if he never stopped, with the impressive record of finishing every race he has ever joined. He has even gained the attention of international media, such as Reader’s Digest, for feats like a 24-kilometer swim from Guimaras Strait to Bacolod City in 1996.

Unfortunately, just when he had regained his stride, Fernandez got into an accident while training for the 2000 Paralympics held in Sydney. With a broken wrist, a fractured left leg, and a need for surgery, Fernandez once again found himself at his lowest.

Once again, the support system leapt into action: With the help of Uytiepo, they were able to raise money for Fernandez’ operation. People ran for the fund-raising marathons organized from him and notable athletes lent out a helping hand. If there is a word that would describe Mang Rudy, it would be “unstoppable.” After his recovery, he gave back by helping Iloilo Press Club in their “Hero for Heroes” cycling project where he conquered a 240-kilometer run in 13 hours.

More marathons and competitions followed after that. In 2003, he and Uytiempo He ran the Standard Chartered Hong Kong Marathon, then tackeld the Singapore edition the following year. There, despite injuries sustained by loose screws in his artificial leg, Fernandez to laceration and bleeding. But a champion never gives up, and Fernandez held onto his commitment of not stopping until he got to the finish line.

Today, Mang Rudy stands as inspiration to all athletes. He is living proof that for a true champion, commitment, bravery, and, yes, relentlessness, can overcome any obstacle.

Even the loss of a limb.

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