Get to know Jack O’Neil, an inspiring and talented 11-year-old dare2tri athlete, as he provides answers for the Q&A below:
1. What’s your story?
I was born with several defects in my spine, pelvis, leg, knee, and foot. I have had many surgeries, beginning when I was 6 weeks old. When I was 9 years old, I was facing total reconstruction surgery on my hip and knee, along with a leg lengthening surgery. I made the decision to amputate my leg at that time. I've been an amputee for a year and a half now.
2. What is your specific involvement with dare2tri?
I've been to the dare2tri kids camp and adult camp. I've competed in several triathlons with dare2tri.
3. How long have you been involved with dare2tri?
I was introduced to dare2tri in the summer of 2013, so about a year. Five months after my amputation, Melissa Stockwell came to my town to do a presentation on paratriathlon. At the time, I was having a lot of problems with my recovery and prosthetic, so doing a triathlon was not on my priority list. I am a swimmer and never thought I could do a sport that included running. Melissa was very encouraging and promised me that things will work out with my recovery and prosthetic. She invited me to the kids camp. Even though I really wasn't interested in triathlons, I went to camp. I had so much fun and loved the triathlon at the end of the camp. The first few triathlons I did, I used a hand cycle and a racing wheelchair. Once I got a leg to bike with and a running leg, I was hooked.
4. Why did you get involved with dare2tri?
Initially, I knew nothing about paratriathlons, so I got involved with dare2tri because I needed help and equipment to compete. After I got my own leg to bike and run with, I continued with dare2tri because I like the coaching I get. I love the dare2tri family and the opportunity to work with other athletes like me.
5. Is there a specific moment with dare2tri that sticks out in your mind? If so, what is it?
The Wauconda triathlon in the summer of 2014. It was the first triathlon I did with an upright bike and my running leg. I felt like the king of the world because I felt so free and fast. The able-bodied kids considered me an equal competitor that day. I won first place in the paratriathlete division and everyone was so supportive and encouraging. It was awesome.
Coach Dan said to me that day, "You are just like Melissa Stockwell. You show up and compete. You beat everyone, collect your bling and go home." That was one of the best things anyone has ever said to me.
6. What would you like others to know about dare2tri?
The coaches at dare2tri want to help everyone meet their goals. So, if you just want to have fun, they'll make sure you have fun. If you want to be the next world champion, they will do everything they can to get you there.
7. What does dare2tri mean to you?
The world. Really. I love dare2tri. I would do anything I can for the people of dare2tri.
8. Is there anything else you would like to share?
Everyone at dare2tri makes me feel so good about myself. Even though I am only 11 years old, the dare2tri coaches understand that I am there to compete. I feel like the coaches have a lot of respect for me, and that encourages me to push myself. Because of dare2tri, I have role models that love me as much as I love them. I tell myself, "If Melissa can do an Ironman, I can do this."