Big Interview - April 09 - Scott Rigsby
Ironman triathlete and double amputee Scott Rigsby tells GEORGE LUKE about his latest challenge
What do you call a man with no legs who enters a sporting contest which involves running a marathon, riding a bike over 100 miles, and swimming 77 laps … and completes it?
Most people would say “a miracle”. However, the man in question thinks differently.
“There’s only one true miracle in my story, and his name is Jesus Christ,” says Scott Rigsby.
Scott grew up in Camilla, Georgia – a small American town where sport is revered almost as much as religion. In high school he played soccer, American football, basketball and baseball.
“I was, and still am, a passionate sports fanatic,” he says.
The accident that was to change Scott’s life happened when he was 18 and due to start college. He had a summer job as a landscape gardener, and was riding in the back of a pick-up truck with his workmates when the truck was hit by a passing 18-wheeler.
Scott was thrown underneath a trailer and dragged 300 feet. His back suffered third degree burns and his right leg was severed.
The doctors saved Scott’s left leg, but he had to endure 26 operations over 12 years trying to keep it, before finally making the decision in July 1998 to have it removed.
Christmas 2005 was his lowest point. “I no longer wanted to live. My life was serving no purpose and I was just existing.
“In my despair, while lying on my parents’ living room floor with tears streaming down my cheeks, I cried out to God. I prayed that if God would open a door for me I would run through it.
“Nothing happened that night, but two days later my prayer was answered.
“I walked into a bookstore in Atlanta and saw pictures of physically challenged athletes on the covers of both Runner's World and Triathlete magazines. Next to those two magazines was Men's Journal. That featured Major David Rozelle, a single amputee soldier who was competing in triathlons.”
Inspired by their stories, Scott decided to enter the Ironman triathlon in Hawaii. “I was filled with hope, a sense of direction and a reason to live, but really didn't consider that what I was trying to do was unthinkable.
“Completing an Ironman is a goal with insurmountable odds for most able-bodied people. I didn't know how to swim; I couldn’t afford a bike, and I’d never even run a mile on prosthetics, much less a marathon!
“Plain and simple, God used the Ironman triathlon to save my life because it gave me a means to an important end.”
Scott is now a certified counsellor working with ex-soldiers who have lost limbs in Iraq and Afghanistan. “Suicide rates are climbing for post-war veterans and they need the ability to re-enter life as they once knew it,” he explains.
“My foundation has teamed with Hope for the Warriors, to advocate for these soldiers and raise funds to enable their rehabilitation.”
Through his foundation, Scott has launched The Unthinkables, a virtual fundraising group of triathletes, cyclists and runners. Several people have signed up from around the world, and Scott’s friend Chrissie Wellington (the first British athlete to win the Ironman World Championships) will be adding her insights.
Later this year, the Scott Rigsby Foundation will join World Vision for a mission trip to Angola, where more than 35,000 people have lost limbs as a result of the civil war there.
“There are people and children who’ve never received a prosthetic for their injuries, and others who haven’t had any prosthesis care for over a decade,” says Scott. “I’m looking forward to travelling to Angola with our team to establish prosthesis centres across the country.
“We envisioned early on that The Scott Rigsby Foundation’s mission would be to inspire, inform and enable physically challenged individuals with loss of limb or mobility, to live an active lifestyle.
“How God was going to do it, however, I was very uncertain about. But he has moved in powerful ways over this past year and we’re now positioned to do the unthinkable!”
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