By Kristian Rasmussen
He moves athletes of all ages with his perseverance, energy and uncompromising zest for life. Reid Maxwell, 4, may stand four feet tall, but his indomitable spirit towers above him when he competes in triathlons.
The Spruce Grove native was born without the portion of his leg below his right knee and is faced with a condition called prune belly, which is a birth defect that results in the underdevelopment of stomach muscles.
But Reid has never let his circumstances hold him back from competing in events like the Heart of the Rockies’ Young Hearts Triathlon, which took place in Invermere on July 14th.
“Biking was the funnest part,” Reid said. “I passed three people this time. I like having fun and getting the medal at the end.”
The young competitor had to brave the early morning waves of Lake Windermere, a task that he found a little unnerving, but he had a friendly face alongside him in the choppy waters. Reid’s father, Duncan, swam out into the water to support his son.
“I am more than willing to do whatever it takes to allow him to do what he wants to do,” Duncan said.
Reid’s father is one part of a built-in support system that the youngster has with him wherever he goes. The Maxwell family is comprised completely of triathletes. Reid’s father Duncan, sister Renae, 6, and mother, Fiona, all competed in the Heart of the Rockies and Young Hearts triathlons.
Despite facing different circumstances from those of fellow competitors, Reid has not been deterred. The racer has geared the early part of his life to achieving milestones. The Heart of the Rockies’ Young Hearts event was his third triathlon in his four years. He has received sibling support all the way.
“I was very excited when Reid did his first triathlon,” Renae said. “I was excited for Reid and excited because I was racing too.”
Reid got an early start on his way to triathlons.
“Right around the 18-month mark he was walking,” Fiona said. “The specialists gave him a walker to help during the transitions when he would take steps without us. Before we knew it he was walking around tables and running.”
Running required a few first awkward steps in some stiff shoes.
“He started with a pretty rudimentary prosthetic leg, which was kind of a basic step up from a peg leg,” said Duncan. “The legs really got better as he went.”
Reid has a collection of different prosthetics that range from high-tech, flexible, carbon fibre to a more rigid, swimming-specific leg.
The family estimates that the cost of Reid’s prosthetic limbs is around $30,000.
“He just got his running leg a month ago and now he can keep up with the kids at the races,” Fiona said.
Reid’s running leg is a special $10,000 prosthetic that has become Reid’s favourite racing tool in his growing collection. The youngster has already completed the St. Albert Triathlon and the Edmonton Triathlon Academy’s, Kids of Steel race.
“During the last race that he did in Edmonton we got interrupted by a race director, who was doing the Devon races outside of Edmonton,” Fiona said.
“The director really wanted him to come to Devon because he is such an inspiration to the kids at events.”