Alex Caliguri’s family has been participating in the GR Tri for several years now. Alex, age 30, had always been part of their post-race celebrations but wasn’t able to take part in the event himself until last year. Having cerebral palsy and autism makes being a triathlete a challenge for Alex. These issues affect both Alex’s fine and large motor skills, any physical task takes him longer and is more challenging. He was never able to balance on a bike until his brother Michael suggested a tandem recumbent bike. It was then that Alex was able to master being a successful cyclist. Since Alex already had family members competing as relay teams at the Grand Rapids Tri, it was a logical step to get him on a relay team of his own. They contacted the GR Tri staff to see how that would be possible.
In 2016, Alex was able to compete in his first triathlon. The initial plan was a pretty typical relay, with a swimmer, then Alex and his mom Teresa on the recumbent bike, then a solo runner. But because of staff members and organizations like My Team Triumph which have experience helping special needs athletes compete, Alex was also able to be part of the swim portion by riding in a kayak. Along with the rest of his hard-working team, he took part at the end of the run to cross the finish line. On Sunday, June 12, 2016, Alex officially became a triathlete along with his teammates Michael Caliguri (brother), Leslie Caliguri (sister-in-law), Hilary Evans (friend), and Teresa Caliguri (mom). Teresa says that crossing the finish line last year “ranks up there as one of the high points of our lives. Doing something like that was beyond anything that Alex and I could have ever imagined.”
Alex’s competitive spirit triggered his teammates to step out of their comfort zones and train differently. Since then they have gone on to compete in other events with Alex including last year’s Gran Fondo. His individual teammates also pushed themselves to go farther and train harder competing in their own individual races so they could get faster and stronger as a team. Alex’s competitiveness brought his team together last year. His mom says “He played a crucial role in challenging each of us to become healthier, stronger, better. Through him, we learned an important lesson of improvement: anything you do should be better than anything you’ve done before.”
Team Alex hopes to stay involved in the GR Tri as long as they can. They’re just beginning! They also have plans to do the Gran Fondo again this year and Michael is hoping to find a racing cart so he can do running races while pushing his brother. Once again this year Team Alex will be competing as a sprint relay at the Grand Rapids Tri. And without a doubt, Alex plans to celebrate like he always does after crossing the finish line by, “Going out to eat of course!”
The Grand Rapids Tri is happy to have an inclusive race which makes adaptations that allow athletes like Alex to reach their goals. We admire Alex and his “get it done” spirit. He’s proof that if you set your mind to a goal and work towards it you’ll find success. Be on the lookout for Alex and his family on the course!