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Sascha’s story…. from nearly losing his leg to completing the Dirty Kanza

2019 Challenged Athletes Foundation Million Dollar Challenge bicyle ride from Palo Alto to La Jolla, California.

I have been very lucky in being able to take part in athletic competition from early on in my life. Growing up in Germany, I competed as a track runner and swimmer. I took part in my first triathlon at age fourteen. To date, I competed in three Ironman events (just missing a Kona spot in my first attempt), ten Half Ironman events (including the 70.3 World Championship), two NYC marathons and over one hundred smaller events. I was named 2007 Best Male Triathlete by SBR Multisports, 2007 USAT All-American, and accrued many podium finishes. My true passion being cycling, I rode my bike over 1,100 miles in nine days from Germany to Barcelona entirely self-supported in 2009. The highlight of my short bike racing career was winning my category at a New York Time Trial in 2010, placing sixth overall, including pros.

However, only a few weeks later I experienced first symptoms of what was soon diagnosed as Popliteal Artery Entrapment causing a severe reduction of blood flow below my left knee resulting in immediate surgery. The following years lead to eleven more surgeries including a bypass which then failed in 2016. Replacing this bypass was a high-risk procedure which could have led to immediate amputation, so instead I have been rehabbing my left leg from only 30% blood flow with the goal of making it the best it can be. When faced with the decision to keep or amputate my leg, the Challenged Athletes Foundation (CAF) introduced me to athletes and their families who have gone through similar life experiences. It is through my whole family’s interactions with the CAF family we have been able to push through merely losing my left leg. Rather than watching TV in self misery, I was inspired to rally and eventually complete events such as the Dirty Kanza 200, a 200-mile same-day race on gravel with over 11,000 feet of climbing. Now, I am hoping to qualify for Leadville 100 and then attempt the Leadboat after that.

Beyond my personal experiences, CAF is an inspiring non-profit organization that gives hope to thousands of individuals with physical disabilities around the world by providing support, mentoring and grants for adaptive sports equipment, competition and training expenses. The courage and perseverance of these athletes has influenced me and my entire family since we first attended their Heroes, Heart & Hope Gala in 2007. From then we have only become more involved by offering athletes to participate in Empire workouts, volunteering at adaptive swim & run clinics as well as the NYC triathlon and participating in the Million Dollar Challenge , a 7-day cycling event over 620+ miles together with para-athletes.

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