On Wednesday, Piers Morgan used his "Only in America" segment to tell the tale of a man he finds more exemplary than any athlete who competed at the games in his home country of the United Kingdom:
"A father who, in my mind, deserves a gold medal more than any of the Olympic champions in London," explained the host, introducing the subject of his story. "Rick Van Beek is a triathlete. One of the toughest challenges in sport."
A Michigan man, Van Beek doesn't merely swim, bike, and run. He does it all, while toting – literally, and figuratively – his inspiration:
"He takes the triathlon to a whole new level," explained Morgan. "Because he competes while carrying his teenage daughter who has cerebral palsy."
Thirteen-year-old Maddy has been along for more than 70 of Van Beek's competition's since 2008, and unless conditions are too severe, the duo finish the race together.
It's quite a change from Van Beek's previous lifestyle:
"Especially since Rick is not a natural athlete," the host said. "He quit smoking two packs a day when he began training."
Admitting that the endeavor was scary initially, the doting dad has developed a rather seamless plan for conquering the logistics of the race. During the swim, Rick tows his daughter in a kayak. She's in a cart next to him during the bike portion of the event. And when he closes with the run, he pushes Maddy in a stroller. As for switching from one discipline to the next?
"Between the three legs of each race," answered Morgan, "Rick carries Maddy in his arms."
In an interview with The Daily News, Van Beek explained his emotions:
"I've never been disappointed crossing the finish line because I'm always doing it with my daughter."
Despite the fact that Maddy is unable to walk or talk, and functions in a similar fashion to that of a three-year-old, it's clear she likes being outside:
"And he's doing everything in his power to give her those rare moments of joy," added the host.
Morgan spent much of the Olympics in his hometown, witnessing "heartwarming stories of endurance, determination, and devotion during the London Games."
But "Only in America" he explained, has he come across a competitor like Maddy's dad:
"None of them could hold a candle to Rick Van Beek. A quite extraordinary man, a quite extraordinary athlete, and a quite extraordinary father."
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