7/20 update: Congratulations, Shay! The results of the online voting are in and Shay Eskew will be participating in the Kona Ironman Competition on October 13, 2012 in Kailua-Kona Hawaii! Thank you to friends, fans and supporters who helped Shay show the world that anything is possible.
(TAMPA, Fla.) When Shay Eskew was severely burned over 35 percent of his body at the age of 8, his dream of participating in competitive sports could have ended. Instead, despite enduring 35 surgeries, including skin grafts and operations to regain mobility of his neck and right arm, Eskew has followed his dream to becoming a triathlete. Now 38, Eskew, a former patient of Shriners Hospitals for Children® — Cincinnati, is competing for a slot in the 2012 Ironman World Championship in Kona, Hawaii, through the Kona Inspired competition. Inclusion in Kona is determined by public vote.
The competition is fierce, but so is Eskew. He cannot sweat from a third of his body, making over-heating a concern while running through the scorching lava fields of Kona. He swims despite mobility restrictions in his neck. But Eskew is determined to show the world that a burn survivor can achieve elite sporting success. His goal is to not just finish the race within the 17-hour cut-off, but to finish in under 10 hours.
“In 30 years I have never seen another burn survivor compete in sports and it’s time to change that,” said Eskew. “People who suffer burn injuries often have a challenging time getting back to living. I have been in pain for 30 years since my accident – it’s not easy – but despite how we look on the outside, people with disfiguring burns are exactly the same people they were before their accident. For me, being an Ironman would be the ultimate affirmation that ‘anything is possible,’ and there is nothing I, nor any other burn survivor, cannot do.”
A father of four (all under the age of 6!), Eskew has already achieved impressive sporting success. In high school he was an All-American wrestler, and at the University of Tennessee he won three boxing championships. Add swimming 2.4 miles, cycling 112 miles and running 26.2 miles into the mix, and you have an Ironman triathlete with amazing sporting prowess despite his physical limitations.
Last year he competed in three of the toughest triathlons in the world, placing in the top 10 percent of competitors, and he competed on Team USA at the ITU Long Course World Championships. “Burns caused me to gravitate to individual sports, wrestling, boxing, and triathlons as it leveled the playing field and focused more on tenacity than raw skills. I was never a good athlete but I was a great competitor,” Eskew said.
You can follow Eskew at www.facebook.com/teamsq. To vote for Eskew to take part in Kona Challenge go https://apps.facebook.com/konainspired/?x=us_facebookapp_347_16 (7/4-7/18 only). Viewer discretion is advised: The video in this link contains graphic images of Shay as a child with severe burn injuries.