Rudy Garcia-Tolson

The Backstory:
Paralympian Rudy Garcia-Tolson started his journey early on. He was born with popliteal pterygium syndrome, a club foot, webbed fingers, and a cleft lip and palate which required 15 surgeries throughout his first 5 years before he opted to have a double leg amputation. Not letting his past or his amputation hold him back, by the time he was 8 Garcia-Tolson was very active in swimming, running, and triathlons. It was then he set his sights on competing in the 2004 Paralympics and at just 16 years old he followed through on that. He took home his first gold medal in the 200-meter Individual medley, as well as breaking the world record for his SM7 class. Since then Garcia-Tolson has gone on to compete in the 2008, 2012, 2016 Paralympic Games, earning 4 more medals, another gold, 2 silver, and 1 bronze. While he had decided to call it in 2017 and put his focus into other passions, when the 2020 Paralympics were postponed a year due to Corona Virus he saw an opportunity. Diving back in, Garcia-Tolson has began training, building endurance and working towards the time intervals he needs to prove he deserves to train with the national team. He is a strong contender for medal in the 2012 Paralympics.

Away from swimming:
In the pool isn’t where Garcia-Tolson drive for pushing boundaries stopped. In between the Paralympic Games he competed in multiple Ironman races, world championships, and Germany’s Challenge Roth triathlon. Following all of his competitive achievements, he has garnered the attention of numerous news and journalism outlets, including a documentary following his Challenge Roth experience and multiple articles in the New York Times. His training buddy is a black Labrador named Jimi, who accompanies him on all his walks.

In their own words:
“First they said I couldn’t walk. Then they said I would never run. Competing at the Paralympics? Don’t even try. They told me that double amputees should stay in a chair. Look how that turned out. Everyone says you cannot change the world—just the people around you. The people around me say that I’ve changed their life. I guess now it’s time to change the world.”

“Being able to swim my first event on Day 1 and go faster than I’ve ever gone…it was an amazing experience, and something you dream about”

“My life and having no legs and doing sports…it’s a blessing, a gift from God I think. Now moving forward, I get to inspire the younger generation—especially the younger challenged athletes.”

Learn more:
Team USA Page
IPC Page
Triathlon Inspires: “Rudy Garcia-Tolson Paratriathlete and Motivational Speaker”
The New York Times: “The Paralympics Got Postponed. A Retired Champion Got an Idea.”
The New York Times: “He Drove over 3000 Miles to Find a Pool and Ended Up in the Ocean”


Paralympian 2016|

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  • Sport:Swimming
  • Limb Difference: 
  • DOB: 9/14/88
  • Residence: Brooklyn, NY
  • College: none
  • Previous Games: 2016|
  • Classification: S8/SB7/SM7