A devoted father has completed a triathlon carrying his 13-year-old cerebral palsy-afflicted daughter across land and through water so that she could complete the gruelling event.
Rick van Beek’s feat of endurance and show of love for his daughter Madison have led many to call the man from Byron Center, Michigan the ‘father of the century’.
But it is not the first race of its kind for van Beek, who said he has participated in more than 70 events, including half-marathons, triathlons and other outdoor races, as part of ‘Team Maddy’.
He and Maddy took part in the Sanford and Sun sprint triathlon on Sunday.
Together they completed the 0.3-mile swim, 12.4-mile bike ride and 3.1-mile run, with Maddy pictured in her father’s arms as they transitioned from section to section.
For the swimming portion, van Beek tugs his daughter through the water in a kayak and then pulls her behind him in a cart as he cycles. He runs the last leg pushing her in a buggy.
Van Beek, 39, told the Midland Daily News that he wants to complete the events with his daughter, who is unable to walk or talk, because she adores being outside.
‘She functions like a three-month-old, and one of the very few things that we know she enjoys is being outside, being in the water, feeling the breeze in her hair and in her face,’ he said.
Maddy was diagnosed with cerebral palsy two months after she was born.
‘It was one of the worst days of our lives,’ van Beek told Fox 17. ‘Everybody prays that their children are healthy and for eight years I still wished that she had been a healthy child, but if she wouldn’t have been like she is then we wouldn’t be the people that we are today.’
His outlook changed when he saw his daughter taking part in a marathon more than four years ago, and saw the pure joy on her face.
‘I watched my daughter Maddy being pushed in the Grand Rapids Marathon,’ he recounted on his blog.
‘To see her being so happy and enjoying every bump in the road was more than I could handle, my emotions took over.
‘Shortly after that day I gave up smoking 2 packs a day and chewing a tin a day to be better, for Maddy. It has been a long road, with many bumps, but we are better.’
In a bid to make his daughter happy, he began training for outdoor races in 2008. Van Beek, who was out of shape and a heavy smoker, also realised it would be beneficial for him.
He persevered to get into shape for his daughter, and raised money for charities along the way.
‘[The emotion] drives me or inspires me to do the things that I do,’ he wrote on his blog last year. ‘Call it inspiration, call it motivation, call it whatever you want, I call it LOVE.
‘That will never fade…She is my heart and I am her legs, though someday she might not physically be able to be there with me, she will always be in my heart, quietly cheering me on.’
Read more at the Mail Online.