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Q&A with an Inspiring Kid Athlete

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He’s only 10 years old, but David Gelfand is already an accomplished triathlete, a winner of 12 gold medals, and a holder of 10 national records.

Most kids his age cringe at the idea of running long distances, biking up mountains, and swimming competitively in open waters. But not David. Those things don’t bother him too much at all.

And neither does his prosthetic leg.

Born with a condition known as Proximal Femoral Focal Deficiency (PFFD), Gelfand doesn’t have use of both of his legs, but that won’t keep him from competing in the fourth kid’s triathlon of his career this weekend in Greenwich, Connecticut.

In addition to triathlons and various swimming competitions, David raises money for the Challenged Athletes Foundation, which helps kids overcome physical disabilities so they, like David, can compete athletically.

This past Wednesday, David was honored by the CAF at their third annual fundraising gala, “A Celebration of Heroes, Heart and Hope.” The event, which raised $1.3 million last year, auctioned off several sports prizes, including a coveted spot in the Ford Ironman World Championship in Hawaii.

While he was in New York, Gelfand stopped by the SI KIDS offices to discuss his athletic accomplishments and his work with the CAF…

SI KIDS: Could you tell us a little bit about your condition, PFFD?
Basically, I was born with a short leg (Note: David is missing the bones between his hip and foot in his left leg). I have toes and a foot and everything, but it just isn’t fully-grown. I have a half fibula, half tibia.

SI KIDS: When did you decide you wanted to compete in triathlons?
Originally, I got into triathlons because I was in the CAF’s triathlon and they inspired me to do others. I figured I could easily do the swimming, I can bike, and the only thing I have to work on is my running.

SI KIDS: What’s the hardest part about competing with one leg?
The biking. I have to put on my walking leg because it has a knee so I can bike. Also, on my left foot I have a piece of Velcro I put around my shoe, and the other piece around the pedal of the bike. I just put my foot on the pedal and it keeps my foot on the pedal so it doesn’t slip off.

SI KIDS: Which of the three-triathlon sports are you the best at?
Swimming is my favorite. I can’t kick with two legs – I just kick with one – so whatever I can kick with my little leg is a bonus. But I have a really strong upper body so I just use that.

SI KIDS: What is your favorite swimming event?
My favorite stroke is any the strokes except for butterfly!

SI KIDS: You’ve had a chance to meet your idol, Sarah Reinertsen, who is also a triathlete and has PFFD. What kind of advice has she given you?
She gives me advice on my running and how to do stuff faster in triathlons. I’ve met other athletes like me and other CAF athletes. I’ll ask them questions and they’ll give me advice on how to do my events quicker. Like how to do my biking or help on open water swimming.

SI KIDS: What would you tell a challenged athlete who is a few years younger than you but is going through the same thing?
I’d tell them to get involved with CAF, they can help you a lot. They can really make a difference. They raised enough to buy nine new running legs for kids and a ton of racing wheel chairs… they’ve been a real inspiration to me.”

SI KIDS: What is the biggest obstacle you’ll have to conquer in your race on Sunday?
To get through the swimming, because I got stung by a jellyfish awhile ago and I really don’t want to go back in the water and get stung again!

To help David Gelfand raise money for the CAF, click here!