On January 14th 2008, I was celebrating the end of my scuba dive open water certification on the island of Koh Tao, Thailand when disaster struck. I was severely burned in a fire and sustained injuries covering nearly 23% of my body. Lucky to survive, but incapable of walking, I laid in my Bangkok hospital bed debating my future. My feet and legs were wrapped in bandages up to my thighs and for two months I was told I might not walk again normally. It was then that I made a promise to myself: not only would I walk again, but also I would return to my childhood dream of competing as a world-class athlete. I would train for a triathlon.
For as long as I can remember, I have dreamed of competing in the Olympics—apparently talking about it non-stop as a child. Even my parents, in an attempt to keep me quiet, drained their savings account to take me to the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta just so I could say I’d been there. It only sparked more interest; primarily in the form of swimming.
I had early success in swimming as a kid. I won numerous state and regional titles and was ranked nationally as high as 5th in the country in the 100 yard and 200yard breastroke. I continued my swim career at Yale University where I competed all four years as a varsity athlete. At graduation in 2006, my coach, Frank, told me that if I put my mind to it, I could use swimming as a foundation for a great career in triathlon.
After Yale, I decided that instead of following a traditional career path, I would set out with my backpack and surfboard to see the world. I covered a lot of ground, from the South Pacific, New Zealand, Australia, and Southeast Asia, to South America. But then came Thailand—and the fire—stopping me in my tracks (Read the full burn story here: “From Tragedy to Triathlon”).
After many painful months of recovery I was finally able to walk, and then, eventually, run. However, the experience left me not only emotionally drained, but financially depleted as well. My degree in Economics had prepared me for the world of finance and against all odds, in the fall of 2008, when thousands of people lost their jobs in the finance sector, I was trading energy futures in Chicago. While managing the stress of the financial crisis, I continued with my pledge to train for triathlon, dedicating all of my free time to the sport. Then, just months after I began training, I surprised myself by winning my first-ever triathlon in Racine, Wisconsin. I backed up this effort by winning the amateur title at the 2009 Chicago Triathlon a month later, and I secured a spot to represent the USA in the 2010 Age Group World Championships in Budapest, Hungary.
Supported by a tremendous sponsor, the Gelber Group, I started my career as a full-time triathlete in Canberra, Australia in the fall of 2009. I started my first ITU professional season in 2011 based out of my hometown Portland, OR. As a professional triathlete, I have represented the USA in international competition in 18 countries, on six continents. I have been based in Portland, OR, Australia, Spain, Santa Monica, CA, Austin, TX, Kauai, HI and Henderson, NV. My goal is to compete in the 2016 Rio Olympics.