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Ironman legend Rick Hoyt dies at 61

The triathlon community mourns the loss of one of the sport’s most iconic figures

The Hoyt family announced on Monday that Ironman Hall of Fame icon Rick Hoyt passed away. Hoyt and his father Dick were famous for their iconic Ironman World Championship and Boston Marathon finishes.

“It is with profound sadness that the Hoyt Family announces the passing of our beloved brother and uncle, Rick, this morning. Rick was 61 years old. Rick passed away due to complications with his respiratory system,” the family said in a statement. “As so many knew, Rick along with our father, Dick, were icons in the road race and triathlon worlds for over 40 years and inspired millions of people with disabilities to believe in themselves, set goals and accomplish extraordinary things.”

Ironman legend Dick Hoyt dies at 80

Hoyt had cerebral palsy, which left him a quadriplegic. In 1977, he told his father, Dick, that he wanted to take part in a charity run for a lacrosse player who was paralyzed in an accident. Dick pushed his son for the race, and after, he told his father, “When I’m running, I don’t feel handicapped.”

The pair would move on to triathlon events and would eventually finish the Ironman World Championship twice – in 1989 and 1999. The videos of their Ironman finishes were the most popular the company ever produced, and the YouTube video you can watch below has over 3.5 million views. If you haven’t seen it, good luck getting through it with dry eyes. In addition to their many inspirational triathlon finishes (257 in total), Dick and Rick Hoyt completed 72 marathons including 32 Boston marathons.

The story began when Rick was born. At birth the umbilical chord suffocated him for a few minutes, leaving him paralyzed and unable to talk. In 1977, Rick asked his dad to push him through that charity run. Within a few years they had completed their first marathon. Then came triathlon events. Then came the Ironman.

The pair’s first long-distance event was the Bud Light Endurance triathlon in Cape Cod – organized by Boston Marathon race director Dave McGillivray. A few years later they competed at the Guelph Lake Triathlon here in Ontario, Canada in 1988 as they were preparing for their first go at the Ironman World Championship. The crowd on hand watched in awe as Dick towed Rick around the swim course in Guelph Lake in a raft, ran with him in his arms up the steep hill to transition, then pedalled on a specially designed bike which Rick rode at the front, then finished with Dick pushing Rick along in a running stroller. They didn’t make it across the line in their first Kona attempt in 1988, but finished one year later.

“Dick Hoyt showed the American public what a father will do for his son when he not only refused to institutionalize Rick, but made the decision to include him in his racing and training,” fellow Ironman Hall of Famer and Ironman historian Bob Babbitt wrote in the book “25 Years of the Ironman World Championship.”