by Michael Maina
As a camera operator following Corey Reed at athletic events, I often find myself crawling around on the floor to get as close to the action as possible. At the Working Wounded Games the athletes were in the heat of an intense competition, so naturally I was nose to the floor filming the action when I suddenly realized one of the athletes was crawling right toward me. It was athlete Sebastian Nunez Allyach. Corey and I had just met Sebastian earlier that day but it hadn’t struck me until then that he was competing with no prosthetic! It looked like he was doing CrossFit balancing on one leg. “Where was his prosthetic? Why wasn’t he using it?” I thought as I replayed our meeting earlier.
Corey and I were sitting in the athlete recovery room across from Sebastian and his friend Hector who had traveled all the way to Vienna, VA from Santiago, Chile to compete at the Games. At the time neither one was wearing a prosthetic, so I didn’t think much of it because athletes often remove them for comfort. We only had a few minutes to talk when they were called back onto the competition floor for the next event.
Sebastian started the Celtic Bag Toss and Burpee event. He got through the first round of burpees, then would stand on one leg and throw a sandbag overhead attempting to clear a bar set at 9 feet. One legged burpees and one legged bag tosses were taking a toll on him. As I looked through the lens of my camera, I could see his struggle and the refusal to give up clearly across his face. It was Sebastian’s final toss and the crowd wasn’t giving up on him either. He kept trying to make the last bar but couldn't get sandbag over it. His face said it all. Finally the judge had him finish with burpees. Each burpee was taking every last bit of energy he had. I could see his pain through my lens. He finished and tried to stand and hobble off the floor. The crowd cheered as if to hold him up when he suddenly collapsed and began crawling toward me. Sebastian could no longer stand upright. I was fighting back tears as I quickly shouldered my camera to help him off the floor, but he could only lay in exhaustion while the next athletes started their events.
After guiding Corey Reed for years now, I knew how to quickly move Sebastian through a crowd to the athlete recovery room. I was afraid he would collapse again even though it was a short walk. As he was laying on the couch to rest, he was in obvious pain, rolling back and forth, twisting and turning…I was very concerned about him. He finally fell asleep in the same place he landed. When he awoke, he was in a better place. The rest had helped.
Sebastian confided that last sandbag toss would haunt him for the rest of his life. That's how much it meant to him to be at the Games…a true athlete. As we sat in the athlete recovery room, I couldn't stand it…I had to ask, “Sebastian, why no prosthetic? I don't understand.” He replied in broken English the best he could, "In our country, if you are disabled, nobody cares. There is very little help. You get one prosthetic for basically your whole life. ONE! If it breaks, there is no spare parts. So you only wear it for emergencies.” What he said broke my heart.
We literally have the best prosthetics available here in the United States. Recent technological advances have provided many of the U.S. adaptive athletes’ tremendous opportunities. As an elite athlete, a sponsorship from Freedom Innovations meant the world to Corey Reed. His prosthetics stand up to the most rigorous workouts in CrossFit. He couldn't have accomplished as much as he has without them.
My wheels started turning. I thought to myself, “We have to help these guys. We’re Ride With Core! If we stand for anything, we stand for this. These guys exemplified The Heart of a Champion.”
As we spoke, I pressed for the details of Sebastian and Hector’s journey to the United States. Sebastian explained the he had lost his leg to osteosarcoma, a type of bone cancer, in 2002. Sebastian was basically describing to me an impoverished country where disabled people are alone to deal with their adaptation. But despite their circumstance, these two were infectious with enthusiasm and kindness. He and his friend Hector barely made it to the Games. A CrossFit box in Chile held a fundraiser and tried as hard as they could to raise enough funds to give them this “once in a lifetime opportunity.” Friends, family and CrossFit pulled together and made it happen for them at the last minute.
As we said our goodbyes, Sebastian handed me a wrist band made out of the flag of his Country. It was modestly handmade but meant more to me than anything I could have received that day because I understood what it took for them get here. I almost broke down again, so I hurried back to Corey and started explaining the story. You don't have to tell Corey what it feels like to be denied opportunity...he immediately had a great idea! We started formulating a plan right there before we even jumped on the plane back to LA.
That plan is coming soon…
An evolution of revolution...
Redefining what's possible…
Time to RIDE for our new brothers from Santiago, Chile…