Paralympic athlete who carried torch in SLC Olympics prepares for Rio games

Posted at 10:26 PM, May 23, 2016
and last updated 2016-05-24 00:26:29-04

SALT LAKE CITY — Rudy Garcia-Tolson has become an ambassador for Paralympic sports.

Born with multiple birth defects, including Pterygium Syndrome, a club foot, webbed fingers and a cleft lip and palate, Tolson endured 15 surgeries by the age of 5 before telling his parents and doctors he’d rather have a double-leg amputation.

Garcia-Tolson began running at age 7 and he competed in his first triathlon at age 8 as the swimmer in a winning relay team, racing with celebrities including Robin Williams. Two years later, he completed in his first, of many, individual triathlons.

The Paralympic athlete was invited to carry the Olympic flame during the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympic torch relay and in 2003 he was named as one of People Magazine’s “20 Teens Who Will Change the World.”

Garcia-Tolson set his first goal at age 8 when he declared he’d go to the 2004 Paralympic Games for swimming. Not only did the double amputee compete, he won gold and again in Beijing in 2008.

He became the world’s first double above-knee amputee to complete an Ironman triathlon in 2009.

Garcia-Tolson is now preparing for the 2016 Rio Olympics and has teamed up with Citi for their debut of “Stand for Progress,” a program that explores how all of us – from world-class athletes to everyday Americans – define progress, set goals and overcome obstacles. All the goals set by the public leading up to Rio will be gathered and shared at Team USA House to inspire America’s elite athletes.