Rudy Garcia-Tolson

Rudy Garcia-Tolson

The Backstory:
Garcia-Tolson was born with popliteal pterygium syndrome, a club foot, webbed fingers, and a cleft lip and palate. He underwent 15 surgeries during early childhood, including  bilateral leg amputation at age five. By the time he reached age eight, Garcia-Tolson was very active in swimming, running, and triathlons. He competed in his first Paralympic Games in 2004 at just 16 years old, winning his first gold medal in the 200-meter individual medley while breaking the world record for the SM7 classification. Garcia-Tolson went on to compete in the 2008, 2012, 2016 Paralympics, earning four more medals (including a second gold). He retired after the Rio Games, but when the 2020 Paralympics were postponed by a year Garcia-Tolson got the itch to compete again.

Away from the pool:
During non-Paralympic years, Garcia-Tolson has regularly competed in elite triathlon races, including the Ironman, world championships, and Germany’s Challenge Roth triathlon. 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”


Prior Paralympics: 2004, 2008, 2012, 2016

5 🥇


  • Sport:Swimming
  • Limb Difference: Bilateral above knee
  • DOB: 9/14/88
  • Residence: Brooklyn, NY
  • College: Southwestern
  • Classification: S8/SB7/SM7