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Special Olympics Puerto Rico Athlete with Down Syndrome Competes in Half IRONMAN

A man rejoices after competing in a triathlon.
David “El Delfin Boricua” Torres Rivera completed the swimming leg at the Half IRONMAN in Puerto Rico in March.

Last month, Special Olympics Puerto Rico athlete David “El Delfin Boricua” Torres Rivera became the first person with Down syndrome to participate in the IRONMAN 70.3 Puerto Rico.

Competing alongside nearly 2,000 fellow athletes, the 27-year-old completed the 1.2-mile swim leg for his Unified relay team. David finished the swim in 31 minutes and his team finished fifth overall with a total time of 4 hours and 59 minutes.

The half triathlon, which is comprised of a 1.2-mile swim, 56-mile bike and 13.1-mile run, is considered one of the most grueling athletic tests in the world. IRONMAN 70.3 Puerto Rico can be done by a single individual or with a team.

“I dreamed about it, worked on it, and achieved it. Thank you to my teammates for believing in me.”
David “El Delfin Boricua” Torres Rivera, Special Olympics Athlete

David’s Unified team, “Manda Fuego” (English translation: “Send Fire”), is comprised of athletes both with and without intellectual disabilities. Unified Sports bring these athletes together to train, compete, and ultimately build friendships and understanding. It’s part of Special Olympics’ mission to create a more peaceful, inclusive world.

David’s mother, Marizel, enrolled her son in swimming lessons for therapeutic purposes when he was eight years old. Marizel then discovered David was an exceptional swimmer, and entered him into the local Special Olympics program.

The rest, as they say, is history.

David competed for Puerto Rico in swimming competitions at the 2019 World Games in Abu Dhabi, and hopes to represent his country again next summer at the 2023 World Games in Berlin. He will also participate in the 2023 Brazadas por la Inclusión, a Special Olympics Puerto Rico event. There, he’s preparing to swim for five consecutive hours, which would break his previous record of four hours.

One of David’s longtime unified partners, Germán Ramos, said it’s an honor to call David a teammate.

“For me, it has been an excellent and beautiful experience doing relays with David since 2018,” Germán said. “David is an elite swimmer that has accomplished incredible records. He gets better every time he goes out to compete.”

He joins Special Olympics Florida athlete Chris Nikic as two notable people with Down syndrome to participate in an IRONMAN event. Nikic completed the 2020 IRONMAN Florida competition with a time of 16 hours, 46 minutes and 9 seconds.

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