COEUR D'ALENE, Idaho - Coeur d'Alene IRONMAN competitors needing some pre-race inspiration might just find it in Coeur d'Alene tonight. Dicky Hoyt, half of an IRONMAN Hall of Fame team, spoke at the Hagadone Event Center on Friday, as part of an event put on by Team Hoyt Coeur d'Alene.
Hoyt and his son, Rick, have risen to international fame with their nearly four-decade long athletic journey- a journey that began with Rick's birth in 1962.
“When Rick was born they said 'forget Rick, put him away, put him in an institution, he's going to be nothing but a vegetable for the rest of his life,” Hoyt said.
Rick was diagnosed as a spastic quadriplegic with cerebral palsy, unable to speak or walk. But Hoyt and his wife, Judy, ignored the doctor's words and took their son home, raising Rick like any other child.
It wasn't a road free of hardship, but their work paid off.
“Today, Rick is 55 years old, he's graduated from public high school, he's graduated from Boston University, he lives all by himself in his own apartment,” Hoyt said.
But, that's not all he's achieved.
“Rick and I have competed in over 1,200 athletic events in 36 years,” Hoyt said.
It started with a charity race for a local college athlete who had been paralyzed.
“He said 'Dad, I have to do something for him, I want to let him know that life goes on after you're paralyzed,'” Hoyt said.
With Rick in his wheelchair, and Dick right behind, they crossed the finish line of that race together, finishing second to last- not last.
“When we got home that night, Rick wrote on his computer,' Dad- when I'm running, it feels like my disability disappears,”
He nicknamed himself 'Free Bird,' and, 36 years later, his story continues to inspire.
“It's unbelievable because we never thought anything like this was going to happen. Here we are in Coeur d'Alene and we've got Team Hoyt Coeur d'Alene here.
There are Team Hoyts in CdA, Arizona, New England, Texas, San Diego, Virginia Beach and even Canada.
“Our message is 'Yes, you can.' There isn't anything you can't do as long as make up your mind to do it and there's no such word as 'no,'” Hoyt said.