Paraplegic athlete competes in Ironman Arizona

Paraplegic athlete competes in Ironman Arizona

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Ricky James being lifted out of the water with the help of his father Ricky James being lifted out of the water with the help of his father
TEMPE, Ariz. -

Top athletes from around the world participated in an Ironman triathlon in Tempe on Sunday.

The course is considered the most urban full-distance Ironman race in North America to date.

Some of the toughest men and women have completed it and this year was no exception.

The brisk waters of Tempe Town Lake served as a starting point for the thousands competing for the title of tri-athlete.

The single loop swim, totaling 2.4 miles, proved grueling.

"Basically the first 1,000 meters are survival swimming," said Perston Lee, an Ironman participant.

Among the masses was 24-year-old Ricky James, a paraplegic who lost all movement from the chest down in a motor cross crash when he was 16-years-old.

James finished his swim in one hour and 35 minutes.

"You could push it as much as you want and train as much as you want," said James.

"It's a huge inspiration, it's been a tough injury to deal with," said James' father.

With Dad keeping a close eye on him, Ironman Arizona is James' second Ironman this year. It's a challenge, he says, is more mental than physical.

"If you want to move your arm you think about it," said James.

It's a sentiment among all athletes who have raced, including Jim Medall from Vail, Colo., who competed in New York three weeks ago.

"It's a tough day, it's a day where you have to get in and find out what you are really made of, how hard you are willing to push and if you have anything left in the end," said Medall.

With the crowds cheering them on, participants biked 112 miles and ran 26.2 miles.

For James, there is no turning back. His sights are set only on the finish line and a fear of failure forced him to push his limits.  

"Winning is good but the losing hurts," said James.

The inaugural Ironman Arizona was held on April 9, 2005. Ironman Arizona gives athletes 17 hours to complete the event.

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