Jim MacLaren, who at one time was the world’s fastest amputee triathlete, passed away Monday evening August 30th. His life was short but amazingly impactful. After getting hit by a New York City bus while on his motorcycle back in 1985 and having his lower leg amputated below the knee , the former Yale football player reinvented himself and became the Babe Ruth of amputee athletes, running a 3:16 marathon and going 10:42 at the Ironman in Kona, Hawaii.
In June of 1993, while competing in a triathlon in Orange County, California, MacLaren was on his bike when a van went through a closed intersection, hit the back of the bike and propelled him into a pole. When he arrived at the hospital he was told that he was a quadriplegic and would never move again from the waist down.
Bob Babbitt, Jeffrey Essakow and Rick Kozlowski, three of his many friends from the sport of triathlon, created a triathlon in San Diego after the accident to buy Jim a vehicle that he could drive with his hands. The goal was to raise $25,000 and they ended up raising $48,000 through the first ever San Diego Triathlon Challenge. “At that event,” remembers Babbitt, “a number of other amputee athletes came up to us to thank us for what we did for Jim, but to also let us know that there were so many other athletes out there that needed help. Insurance would cover a walking leg, but anything having to do with sport was considered a luxury item.”
From Jim’s second tragedy, the Challenged Athletes Foundation was born and in the 17 years since, CAF has raised over $28,000,000 to help disabled athletes stay in the game of life by providing grants to help purchase the equipment they need to stay in the game of life through sport.
“CAF is Jimmy’s legacy,” continues Babbitt. “I’m proud to say that, through the athletes that we help every day, his impact will live on forever.”