MetroWest resident Loyal Pyczynski (left) attends Hands to Love’s Hand Camp held March 2012 in Starke.
When Hector Torres, head coach of the Central Florida Triathlon Club, or Tri Club, as its 277 members call it, first saw MetroWest resident Loyal Pyczynski running at the Downtown Orlando YMCA Family Center in 2008, he recognized the makings of a champion.
Loyal, who was born with a congenital amputation of his left hand at the wrist, was busily trying to get back into shape. He had recently married his wife, Cassie. The couple now have two daughters, Layla Ali’i and Pippa Christine.
“As a triathlete coach, I work with all levels of athletes,” said Hector, founder of Tri Peak Athlete LLC. “I’ve seen many people achieve dreams that seem impossible to fathom. When I saw Loyal, I knew he needed help. I approached him and asked if he had ever considered getting involved with an Ironman competition. That’s what you do as a coach; you plant a little seed and allow it to grow.”
“Growing up watching the Ironman competitions, I was always interested, but I never thought it was something I could do,” Loyal said. “But when I met Hector, I decided to give it a shot.”
And give it a shot he did. He completed his first Ironman competition November 2009 in Florida. In October 2010 in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii, Loyal competed in his second Ironman competition, the 2010 Ford Ironman World Championship. Hundreds of competitors (called “warriors”) swam 2.4 miles, biked 112 miles and ran a full 26.2-mile marathon. Loyal was named the 2010 Ironman World Champion in the Physically Challenged division, with a winning time of 13 hours, 15 minutes, 27 seconds.
“There is an unbelievable sense of accomplishment to completing an Ironman competition,” he said. ”It is known as the world’s most difficult and grueling one-day event. And to become the world champion in the Physically Challenged division is pretty amazing.” In 2011, Loyal competed in the Accenture USA Paratriathlon National Championship held in New York, as well as proudly represented the U.S. at the 2011 Dextro Energy Triathlon ITU World Championship Series Grand Final held in Beijing. Advanced Cycles bicycle shop in South Orlando was happy to sponsor Loyal and provide him a top-of-the-line race bike that included modifications, such as both brakes being controlled by one hand control, to meet his needs. “A lot of people think the most difficult part of the completion for someone without a hand would be swimming, but biking is actually the hardest,” Loyal said. “The lack of stability and trying to hold on with one hand, switch gears, grab a water bottle, and eat was a real challenge. Advanced Cycles’ support and generosity have been a real lifesaver.” Loyal hopes to again compete in the 2012 Paratriathlon World Championship that will be held in Auckland, New Zealand, and represent the U.S. as a paratriathlon athlete in the 2016 Summer Paralympic Games, which will be held in Rio de Janeiro. “I know he is destined for greatness,” Hector said. “That’s how confident I am in his talent.”
Loyal Pyczynski of MetroWest represents the U.S. at the 2011 Dextro Energy Triathlon ITU World Championship Series Grand Final held in Beijing.
Growing up the oldest of two siblings in Central Florida, Loyal always has loved sports. Skilled in playing soccer, he also excelled at baseball, basketball, cross country, and track and field as a student at Poinciana High School. He was so talented, he was named Central Florida Scholar-Athlete of the Year in 1998, his senior year of high school.
“Playing sports was one of the only times I felt I belonged,” Loyal said.
“I was just another athlete, just trying to do well. I always felt very self-conscious when I wasn’t playing a sport. I got picked on. Even when the other kids were just being curious, it was a lot to take as a kid. I spent a lot of time in athletics to get away from all that.”Today, Loyal is a program manager for Rockwell Collins in Cummings Research Park. He heads a team of engineers, contracts managers and financial analysts, while also managing virtual-reality training systems for the U.S. military and foreign allies. Loyal passionately volunteers his time with the Challenged Athletes Foundation that is based in San Diego; and Hands to Love, based in Gainesville, which serves families of children with congenital upper limb differences. “Words can’t explain it,” Cassie said, about his time with Hands to Love. “There were tears in my eyes to see him — for these children to look up to him. He’s just like them, and they see that he has accomplished so much. He gives the children hope and got them excited for their futures. I am so incredibly proud of him. One boy was so inspired that he had gotten married and had [children] — little things like that. Through my eyes and the parents’ eyes, he has had a huge and positive impact on the children.” “He is a wonderful role model,” agreed Hands to Love co-founder Ruthie Dell.
“He is very genuine, a ‘what you see is what you get’ kind of person. He doesn’t make any excuses. I’m very proud to know him and have him as one of the role models to the children and their parents. He is a pinnacle of hope and inspiration to see what he has accomplished — for the kids see what he can do. He is just so purely inspiring. We are really proud to have him in our fold.” “Anything is possible,” Loyal said. “What it really comes down to is those who choose to have the determination to succeed vs. those who view their current situation as a crutch. The biggest thing for anyone — able-bodied or disabled — is believing they can do it, and making the commitment and trying to do it.”
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