In Praise of the Athlete

Johnny Agar, cerebral palsy, and the unlikely Ironman

Elena Noble, MPT | August 2017

johnny agar ironman (2)Johnny Agar never considered himself an athlete. Born with cerebral palsy, he used a wheelchair, depended on others to care for him and took his first steps—23 total—at 11 years old. But sports was always part of his life—after all his dad had been a pitcher for the Detroit Tigers. But father and son did not bond on the baseball diamond. Inspired by My Team Triumph, a program where able-bodied athletes team up with those with disabilities, Jeff started pushing Johnny in a stroller on short-distance runs. Johnny loved it (especially the crowd atmosphere and the wind in his hair). So did Jeff. They did a 5K and from there were sucked into the runners lifestyle as Team Agar. More competitions followed and they completed their first marathon in 2012.

Determination and Drive

Competition brings out the best in Team Agar, especially the father-son connection and the shared love for sports. Johnny wanted to help his dad and do his part. That’s why he was determined to run his “marathon” – covering the last mile before the finish line in his Rifton gait trainer. In Johnny’s words, “my goal in mind was to walk a mile, something that would normally be easy for others but for me, it was my own marathon. I put in the work, the sweat, blood, and tears. Believe me, it was not easy. But it also made me appreciate what all other athletes, including my Dad, feel during races. Completing the mile brought on things I didn’t know were possible.” This video clip says it all.

Test of Endurance

The real test of endurance came when Team Agar was invited to compete in the 2016 Kona Ironman – the iconic triathalon held every year in Hawaii. Although they were unable to complete that first one, they powered their way into thousands of hearts with their spirit, optimism and courage. And now? They are determined to cross the finish line in this year’s Ironman World Championship in October, with sponsorship from Under Armour and encouragement from the likes of Michael Phelps. At Rifton we’ve been following Team Agar for months; it’s time we shared the excitement with you.

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