Hector Picard was never a triathlete before he lost his arms. Today, the 51-year-old from Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. swims, bikes and runs more miles in a given year than most people on this planet.
Wait. Swimming and biking without arms?
“I swim on my back and use my legs to propel myself through the water,” he told us in 2015. “On my bike, I brake and shift gears with my chin.”
He has no problem changing his own flat tire out there on the course either.
There’s no doubt his strategies have worked incredibly well, too. Picard is the first double-arm amputee to finish an Ironman — a grueling 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile cycling segment and a 26.2-mile run. In addition to that, in October, he became the first person without arms to conquer the IRONMAN World Championship in Kona.
Picard lost his arms in 1992 while working on a substation transformer, which supplied power to an entire neighborhood. At the end of a long day, he had to remove equipment from the transport when his arm inadvertently touched the activated side. A 13,000-volt charge went through his right arm, down his side, and blew off the top of his foot. As he was falling from the initial electrocution, he reached out with his left hand and got hit with another 13,000 volts before falling two stories as he was on fire.
He was in a coma for 30 days. When he woke up, his arms were gone, and he had second and third degree burns covering 40% of his body.
Through intense rehabilitation, Picard learned how to use a $40,000 prosthetic arm on his residual limb so he could do things like brush his teeth, pour a glass of milk and hold his 1-year-old daughter.
Then, he took things to another level and built his own prosthetic arm specifically designed for playing basketball. When we caught up with him in South Florida, he even challenged Dwyane Wade to a game of hoops.
Since taking part in his first triathlon in 2009, Picard has biked across the country from Miami to Spokane, Wash., completed a swim around Key West (12.5 miles) and run the Boston Marathon.
But, just crossing finish lines is not why he does it. Along the way, he raises money for various charities, pushes/pulls other non-traditional athletes like former New York Times reporter Kerry Gruson, and dedicates some of his races to kids at his local children’s hospital, where he presents them with his medals at hospital ceremonies.
“I want kids with disabilities to see someone like them who is accomplishing big things,” he said.
And, Picard has plenty of fun with his so-called disability, too. When he was asked to be a walker on The Walking Dead, he jumped right on it, and quickly embraced the zombie role. He’s been known to entertain kids at parties with his rotating prosthetic arm. He even leaves it hanging from random places, like a beach umbrella or a gas pump just to see people’s reactions.
Tour to Inspire! The first of many fuel stops to come. The myoelectric arm makes this task easier. I use it to handle the credit card, type in the zip code, removing the gas cap and pumping the gas. The tricky part is putting the gas cap on. PS – The pump is off and I’m 20 feet from the pumps. #TourToInspire #DontStopLiving #SecondChance
“I want people to look at us as equals with just some minor differences,” Picard said. “If you think of me as a disabled guy during a race, believe me, I’m training and working my butt off to pass you up. I have no problem with my disability. I live with it everyday.”
Who can’t root for a guy like that?