Faced with a personal tragedy few of us can comprehend, Andre Kajlich responded in a way all of us can admire.
In 2003, while studying at a university in Prague, Czech Republic, Kajlich lost both legs when he ended up on train tracks and was struck by an oncoming train. One of his legs was severed just below the hip, the other just above the thigh.
It was an obvious life-changing accident, and one that could have crippled Kajlich emotionally as well as physically.
Instead, the Edmonds native eventually returned to sports. Kajlich, who had been a five-sport letter winner at Seattle’s Blanchet High School, overcame some initial reticence and became a world-class paratriathlete, which involves races in swimming, hand cycling and wheelchairs.
His first paratriathlon was early in 2011, and by the end of that first year — and with a suddenly keen desire to push himself to the utmost — he had become one of the best in the world.
Kajlich had a remarkable year in 2012, which included his selection as the male USA Paratriathlon Athlete of the Year. Ranked No. 1 in the men’s TRI-I category (for athletes with disabilities that preclude using a leg-powered bicycle) by the International Triathlon Union, he finished first at the PATCO Paratriathlon Championships, and second at the USA Paratriathlon Nationals and the ITU Paratriathlon World Championships.
In addition, Kajlich was the handcycle winner at the 2012 Ironman World Championships and the Ironman 70.3 World Championships.
For these achievements, not to mention a wholly inspiring story, Kajlich was a finalist for The Herald’s 2012 Man of the Year in Sports award.