Special athletes and their stories at DATEV Challenge Roth 2019
Eric McElvenny from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania served as an infantry officer for the US Marine Corps in Afghanistan and lost his lower right leg in a bomb booby-trap. After his leg was amputated, he looked for a new life perspective and found it in triathlon. In 2013 he started at Ironman Hawaii for the first time and finished in 11:54 hours. He's coming to Roth for the first time.
Jonathan Drutel (Team Argon 18 France)
Jonathan Drutel is an athlete with cystic fibrosis and diabetes. He received a lung transplant in 2008 and a heart transplant in 2009. On June 24, 2018, he completed his first long distance triathlon in Nice. Team Argon 18 France is a member of the Fighting Cystic Fibrosis Association, and Jonathan Drutel is participating in DATEV Challenge Roth for two reasons: firstly, his personal battle with the disease and, secondly, his desire to educate the world about organ donation and Cystic Fibrosis. The team wants to send all sick children and parents the positive message of: "Hope and never give up forcing fate".
Elmar Sprink from Cologne has had a heart transplant and is severely disabled in over 70% of his body. During the late nineties, Sprink was competing with a personal best of 10 hours and was aiming to start in Hawaii in 2010. Then, one July day in 2010, his heart suddenly stopped beating. He was resuscitated but dozens of heart specialists struggled to find the cause, and meanwhile his heart was getting weaker. In 2012 it stopped again. On June 8, 2012, he finally received a donor heart, fought back to fitness and on the first anniversary of the transplant, he completed his first triathlon with his new heart. In 2014 he was the first ever heart transplant athlete to compete at Ironman Hawaii. With his history, his goal is to raise awareness for the important issue of organ donation.
The now 19-year-old Nicolas Garwood from South Africa has cerebral palsy and is severely disabled. He's racing with his father, Kevin, who pulls his disabled son "Nikki" in a kayak while swimming, then cycles on a tandem bike before running pushing him in a racing wheelchair. Athletes and spectators will remember Team Garwood from DATEV Challenge Roth 2015. At that time, the team was able to reach the finish in the Roth Triathlon Stadium in 14:56:31 to thunderous applause from the spectators.
Rafael Lopez Ordonez
The Spaniard Rafael Ordonez is a wheelchair athlete who races alone. Only his wife Mari Carmen Avila Rivero helps him in transition. Born in 1964, Ordonez is an experienced para-triathlete who has already completed over 20 races. He also raced at DATEV Challenge Roth 2018.
Robert Verhelst ("Fireman Rob")
The American Rob Verhelst is a veteran of the US Air Force and for many years fire fighter in the city of Madison, Wisconsin. After the terrorist attack on the World Trade Centre in 2001, he was one of the brave fire fighters who spent over a week in unimaginable conditions at "Ground Zero" recovering survivors and the dead. Following this, Verhelst founded the "Fireman Rob Foundation", which serves as a platform to encourage action-based living to raise money for charity. He always inspires awe as he completes the entire marathon in full fire fighting gear (including oxygen cylinder). Rob Verhelst has travelled to race DATEV Challenge Roth several times.