Double arm amputee competes in Ironman Triathlons

By on April 24th, 2013

A triathlete’s endurance can raise eyebrows, but a triathlete without arms gets people talking.

Hector Picard is the first double-armed amputee to compete in Ironman Triathlons.

Picard was working as an electrician in South Florida in 1992, when he made contact with a substation transformer.

“I received a double jolt of 13,000 volts of electricity,” Picard said. “First through my right side, then through my left side.”

The accident left him with no arms, but that didn’t slow Picard down. He has competed in 72 triathlons since 2009, adjusting to his dilemma with untainted determination.

“He doesn’t expect anything from you,” said Mark Wilson, Ocala HITS triathlon series race director, coach and triathlete. “He doesn’t expect you to do anything extra for him. He’s just a beautiful person.”

Because he competes without arms, Picard has a very specific racing strategy.

In the 2.4-mile swimming portion of the triathlons, he floats on his back and uses his legs to swim, rather than using his upper body strength.

Picard designed his own bike for the 112-mile biking portion. He has a cup-holder-like brace near the handlebars where he puts his left arm to steer the bike, and a brake on the bar below the handlebars, which he squeezes with his knee to slow the bike down.

His persistence and determination inspires other triathletes in perfect health.

“It invalidates excuses because people are full of reasons why they can’t do things,” Stultz said. “And then there are people out there who don’t accept excuses. They don’t use those as roadblocks or hurdles to accomplish amazing things in life.”

Picard has become popular at race sites due to social media bringing awareness to his story.

“Hector’s story is starting to go Facebook viral,” said Trevor Stultz, a fellow triathlete. “It’s been a pretty neat and inspirational story to see.”

Picard sets goals for himself every race.

For Ocala’s second annual HITS Triathlon series, held the weekend of March 23, Picard’s goals for the race were to not stop during the marathon run, and to reach a new personal record.

“I’ve had people tell me things can’t be done, and this is one of those things,” Picard said.

But during this particular race, he wouldn’t be able to achieve his goals.

At mile marker 104 of the biking portion, Picard realized he was pushing himself too hard. Disappointed, he decided he had to listen to his body in order to prevent a serious injury.

“For the first time in 72 triathlons since 2009, I wasn’t able to finish a race,” Picard said. “At age 46, I’m dreaming about doing this at age 70, and if I don’t pace myself, then I won’t get there.”

Now, Picard is focusing on his next challenge, a 3,200-mile bike ride from Miami to Spokane, Washington, during the upcoming months.

The ride will raise funds for prosthetics for Jameson, a little boy who was born without hands, for the Hands for Baby Jameson Project.

Picard intends to show Jameson’s parents that although their son will look different, he will still be able to live a normal life.

For more information on the Hands for Baby Jameson Project, visit Picard’s website at dontstopliving.org.

Laura Foreman wrote this story online.

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