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40 Stories – Dick and Rick Hoyt – 1989

In 1988 a new chapter in IRONMAN history was being written. A father and a son were attempting the race together. But this was no ordinary pairing.

Dick and Rick Hoyt were coming in with a story like no other that started way back on January 10, 1962. That was when Rick Hoyt came into this world. He was born with cerebral palsy. The umbilical cord was wrapped around his neck and his brain was starved of oxygen. He would never be able to control his muscles the way his peers would. But that in no way meant he would be also starved of the thrill that we all experience through sports.

In 1977 Rick has asked his father if they could run in a race that was going to benefit a classmate who had been paralyzed. His father, who at that time was not a runner, said yes. And that was the beginning of Team Hoyt.

Rick trained pushing a bag of cement while his son was in school. Together they competed in running races of all distance. And then in 1988 decided to compete in the IRONMAN World Championship.

Dick would pull Rick in a raft during the swim. Then he would put him on the front of his bike for the cycling leg. The run was done pushing Rick in a wheelchair. Dick was strong. Rick was excited. But the conditions were not in their favor. The swim was rough and Dick became so nauseated he could not finish. But this is a team whose lives are about rising up. 1989 would be a different story.

The Hoyts completed the IRONMAN for the first time in 1989.

The 1989 IRONMAN World Championship would witness one of the Top-40 Greatest Moments at IRONMAN. We would see Dick racing across the finish line pushing his son Rick in front of him. Supreme joy was written all over Rick’s face. And with the waves of his arms he signaled to all of us what an affirmation of life the race was and how deep the love between him and his father ran.

Here is their story in video, the story of the amazing Dick and Rick Hoyt:

Dick summed up the experience in his normal humble way:

“The 1989 World Championships in Kona was the first time that Rick and I completed the IRONMAN event. It was our most favorite IRONMAN of all. The way the crowds cheered for us was unbelievable. And the volunteers along the route are always awesome. Crossing the finish line that year was a moment that we will always remember.”
“Being a part of IRONMAN History has been a huge honor for both of us. We have competed in over 1200 race events in the last 40 years, but our IRONMAN events have always held a special place in our hearts.”

In 1988 I had heard about the Hoyts but had not had the chance to meet them. After the race the only thing I heard was that they had been forced to drop out before completing the swim. But in 1989 I happened to be at the finish line when they came across.

And so the only way I can describe the emotion is that it was one of the most real life experiences I have ever witnessed. Their effort had nothing to do with fame or fortune, with trying to gain notoriety or become some kind of elite force in sports. It was an effort driven by love and passion and a bond between a father and a son that was as pure and real as you can ever get in life.

I was not the only one inspired by Dick and Rick Hoyt in 1989.

“One day Rick and I came home and there was a message on our answering machine. It was from past President Ronald Reagan!”
“The message said that he and Nancy had watched the IRONMAN event on TV in the past, but in 1989 they watched the entire program, because they were so caught up in watching Rick and I compete in the triathlon. We ended up meeting him in California, and he hung a picture that was taken of us together in his library.”

To see what Team Hoyt is up to today click HERE.

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