A Michigan father and his adult son with cerebral palsy are gearing up to compete in the Ironman World Championship Triathlon in Kona, Hawaii. The grueling three-sport competition is scheduled to start in October.
ABC reports that Jeff Agar, 53, will be pushing his son Johnny in a chariot (and on a boat during the swimming portion of the events) throughout the entire competition, which consists of cycling, swimming, and running competitions that equal 146 miles.
Johnny, born with cerebral palsy, has already competed in six marathons with his father. According to Jeff, his enthusiastic son doesn’t let his disability get him down. Johnny is always cheering for others and clapping while competing in competitions.
He is constantly cheering for people as we go along. We get people who want to run with us just because of the cheering that they get from Johnny.”
Johnny, 22, considers his father a positive role model who he looks up to because of his willingness to help him cross the finish line.
“He is just the biggest inspiration to me, because you wouldn’t necessarily think of a kid who has cerebral palsy, which is what I have, being able to participate in a triathlon of that magnitude, with some of the best athletes in the world.”
“He is willing to pull me and push me in the race for 140.6 miles so I get to know the feeling of what it feels like to cross the finish line.”
Jeff’s wife and Johnny’s mother, Becki Agar, said that her husband, who has been training daily for the Iron competition, plans to finish before the 17-minute time limit, even while pushing Johnny in the chariot. Jeff wants to leave time for his son to walk the last mile of the championship event. While speaking to ABC about her son, the proud mom said,
“For him, walking a mile is like you or me running a marathon. He has to think about every movement he makes in order to get his leg where it needs to be.”
The determination comes from Johnny’s desire to be an athlete, a dream that he’s had since he was a young child. Becki added that she doesn’t think he husband would be participating in the competitions today if it hadn’t been for Johnny and his love for athletics.
Johnny has always wanted to be an athlete, he has always looked up to his dad in that way, but it was so hard for Johnny to participate in organized sports. I don’t think Jeff will do it otherwise. Johnny is quite a motivator for Jeff.”
She also added that despite the tough training, Jeff has always remained focus and doesn’t complain. He knows that the competitions and ultimately, the Ironman World Championship, mean the world to Johnny.
— Jamie Edmonds (@Jamie_Edmonds) June 13, 2016
When he’s not participating in athletic competitions, Johnny spends time helping his family research public areas and events that are accessible to people with disabilities. He also looks for places that have accessibility problems and need to work to become more accommodating to people with special needs.
The site was initially created by his parents in 2001, after taking Johnny to the San Diego Zoo, where they ran into numerous accessibility obstacles that made the trip difficult. According to Jeff, his son now helps add locations to the “Johnny’s Page” website, to help others find venues, restaurants, and stores with accessibility options, so that they’ll be prepared before arriving.
“Johnny’s big goal in life is as a disability advocate. He created a website like Yelp for handicapped people. It is about spreading information about how accessible a location is so you know before you go there.”
For more information about the Ironman World Championship and to see Johnny and his father in action this October, visit their official team site for more information.