Sean O’Rourke, a triathlete with an intellectual disability

To read on The Bulletin website:

Bend coach helps special needs athletes reach never-before-reached heights

Victoria Jacobsen  Published June 25, 2017

Triathlete from New York hopes to become the 1st with an intellectual disability to finish an Ironman triathlon

Sean O’Rourke

Sean O’Rourke, 40, swims laps at Juniper Swim & Fitness Center on Thursday in preparation to compete in an Ironman triathlon. O’Rourke is training to be the first person with an intellectual disability to compete in the event. (Ryan Brennecke/Bulletin photo) 6436816

When Sean O’Rourke called Barry Holman from Long Island last fall to say he intended to complete an Ironman triathlon, Holman wondered if O’Rourke was “having a midlife crisis — in the best possible way.”

Holman, founder of the nonprofit Athletes Without Limits, which works to give athletes with intellectual and developmental disabilities opportunities to train and compete in high-level sports, met O’Rourke at a cross-country meet in New York in 2009. O’Rourke persuaded Holman on the spot to serve as his triathlon coach, and he has since completed several sprint-distance and half-Ironman triathlons. But as O’Rourke drew closer to his 40th birthday this past February, he felt that it was time to do something a little more momentous — cross off a “bucket list” item, as he put it during an interview in Bend last week. A full Ironman — a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike ride and marathon run — seemed to be just the thing.

O’Rourke is currently in Bend visiting Holman for a weeklong “training camp” ahead of Ironman Lake Placid, which will take place July 23 in New York. If he finishes the race, it is believed he will be the first person with an intellectual disability to complete the grueling feat.

Ironman and other ultra-distance triathlon organizers do not typically ask entrants if they have an intellectual disability, but Holman said he has combed through newspaper reports and contacted numerous coaches who work with special needs athletes in the U.S. and abroad. So far, no one has reported an example of a triathlete with an intellectual disability who has completed an ultra-distance triathlon. If someone has, she or he apparently did so with little fanfare.


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