Paralympic Gold Medalist Kicks Off School Tour in CVESD

Decorated summer Paralympic swimmer and track athlete Rudy Garcia-Tolson is visiting one Chula Vista elementary school per school morning through March 14 to promote the Winter Paralympics.  Garcia-Tolson is running around the track with students, demonstrating how his prosthetics work, and showing audiences that he can skateboard, too.

Garcia-Tolson, a bilateral amputee, has enthralled students as a motivational speaker. He currently trains at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista. He has served as a spokesperson for the Challenged Athletes Foundation and Ossura, a global leader in non-invasive orthopaedics, for 18 years.

“Having no legs is really a gift,” Garcia-Tolson says. “If I wasn’t an amputee, I probably wouldn’t have the same drive to do what I do.”

Garcia-Tolson is a 2-time Paralympic gold medalist in swimming (Athens 2004, Beijing 2008). At the London 2012 Games, he took silver in swimming and also competed in the 100 and 200 meter sprint events on the track. He tours the country as a motivational speaker sharing his message, “A Brave Heart is a Powerful Weapon.”

Each day of the tour, he has been joined by either teammate Blake Leeper (The American Blade Runner) or Lex Gillette (Visually Impaired Long Jumper). At the 2012 Paralympic Games, Leeper, a bilateral amputee, won silver in the 400 meter T44 event and bronze in the 200m T44 event. Gillette, a World Champion and World Record Holder, spreads his message, “No Need for Sight When You Have a Vision.”

The tour began at Halecrest Elementary and was organized with the help of CVESD physical education resource teacher Allison Wagner, who oversees the District’s Exercise the Dream Program that is based at the Olympic Training Center. The athletes are speaking at all-school assemblies about the Paralympics, the challenges that they have overcome in life, and what their daily routines consist of as athletes.

“Through the Exercise the Dream program at the Olympic Training Center, the students get the opportunity to have the athletes come over to speak with them and to tell their amazing stories,” Wagner said. “When Blake Leeper, Lex Gilette and Rudy Garcia-Tolson told me they wanted to do a seven-day Paralympic tour in our District to promote the Winter Paralympics in Sochi, I jumped on the opportunity to help out.

“There are many students in our district that are going through their own challenges, whether it is at home, in the classroom or on the track. Seeing these athletes in person and hearing the stories of their struggles and accomplishments really helps the kids to relate to them and gives them courage to overcome the challenges they may be facing in their own lives.”

View CBS8’s news coverage by clicking here.

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