The Front Row with BILL BULEY June 25, 2010
Scott Rigsby likes to do the “Unthinkable.”
Tell him he can’t do something, and he sets out to do exactly that.
Good thing, too, because plenty of people have told him what he can’t do. After all, he doesn’t have any legs. Lost them after an accident when he was 18 years old, riding the back of a pickup truck when it was clipped by an 18-wheeler on July 23, 1986.
He was dragged 325 feet and pinned under the trailer. His right leg was amputated and later, following multiple surgeries, the left. They told Scott Rigsby it would be a long time before he could walk, and as for running, forget it.
Scott Rigsby didn’t listen.
He decided he would run and bike, and swim. He decided to become a triathlete. He did that, and decided he wanted to be an Ironman. It was a difficult journey marked by doubt, disappointments, setbacks and financial struggles. But on Oct. 13, 2007, he did what no one had ever done. He became the first double-amputee to complete the Ford Ironman World Championship in Kona, long considered the most demanding, grueling event around because of the heat, the wind and the white-capped waters.
It took him 16 hours, 42 minutes and 46 seconds to reach the finish line, and do what he calls “Unthinkable,” which is the name of his biography written with Jenna Glatzer and published by Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.
Rigsby is a favorite son of Coeur d’Alene, having competed in the Ironman race here in 2007, but falling short after suffering a bike crash and being forced to stop 13 miles into the run. He also visited schools here, talking to students about the accident, his prosthetic legs, and delivering a message of perseverance, hope and faith.
He hopes now to inspire others to look beyond the limitations others might set for them, or they might set for themselves.
On Sunday, many athletes taking on Ironman Coeur d’Alene will have overcome their own challenges just by standing at the starting line and looking out on the waters. He would love to inspire them, too, to push on to the end, to see it through when they might think they can’t.
In his book, he outlines five key steps “to cross my finish line and change the world.”
• Have a dream
“Nothing can happen until you have something big in your heart that drives you. Your dream is yours alone, and it doesn’t matter whether or not the dream seems unattainable right now.”
• Build a good support team
“Big dreams take big risks, and going it alone means almost certain failure. Your support team doesn’t have to include your family, and it may not even include your friends. Find people who can help you on your journey, and then ask them to join you.”
• Choose faith over fear
“Fear is the leading cause of the death of our dreams. The only antidote I know is to choose faith. Faith will lead you to face your fears and point you straight to the core of how to withstand the doubt and uncertainty.”
• Expect and overcome obstacles
“Anything worth doing will present some challenges; otherwise you’d have done it already! However, no matter how much faith you exhibit, the ‘day of trouble’ will come. According to Jeremiah 16:19, that is precisely when God becomes our strength, our fortress, and our refuge.”
• Cross your finish line
“Somewhere along your journey, you envisioned what the experience was going to be like when you approached your finish line. Your dream may have taken months, years or decades to achieve, but the finish line is always there for you to cross.”
These days, Rigsby is a professional speaker and certified counselor. He is the founder of the Scott Rigsby foundation, a nonprofit in Georgia that aims to inspire physically challenged people.
And he has a simple wish for all of us.
“Never quit,” he wrote. “No matter how long it takes, no matter how great the obstacles, no matter what. I know you can do it.
“My name is Scott Rigsby, and I am an Ironman.”
Bill Buley is city editor of the Coeur d’Alene Press. He can be reached at 884-8176, ext. 2016, or firstname.lastname@example.org