By David Pan Weekly Herald sports editor
Andre Kajlich wants to give back.
When Kajlich qualified for the Ironman World Championships in 2011, he needed some assistance obtaining a handcycle that met the required regulations.
The Challenged Athletes Foundation (CAF) stepped up and provided a handcycle, which is a vehicle powered by the arms rather than the legs, through its grants program for Kajlich, who had both legs amputated after being hit by a train in Prague eight years ago.
The Ironman triathlon consists of a 2.4-mile swim, 112 miles on a bike (Kajlich used a handcycle) and a 26.2-mile run (Kajlich has a racing wheelchair).
Kajlich, a 33-year-old from Edmonds, still continues to race with the handcycle given to him by the CAF.
To show his appreciation to the organization, Kajlich is hosting a golf tournament, the AJK Classic Benefitting Challenged Athletes Foundation, Aug. 25 at the Golf Mountain Olympic Course in Bremerton.
“It’s really a special organization,” Kajlich said. “They’ve had an awesome impact on my life and my pursuit of sports and competition. I definitely want to give back so they can continue helping athletes and wounded soldiers.”
The CAF’s support was instrumental in Kajlich’s life, both in providing the needed equipment and fostering an interest in triathlons. He started getting into the sport at an event hosted by the CAF in San Diego.
“I really fell in love with the sport when I first qualified for the Kona Ironman World Championships,” Kajlich said. “I had equipment that didn’t meet regulations. I was at the point where I begged and borrowed from family and friends to get to that point.”
The grant enabled Kajlich to obtain a regulation handcycle and to compete in the world championships.
“It really allowed me to pursue sports,” Kajlich said.
The weekend before the AJK Classic, Kajlich will be participating in a back-to-back 100-mile bike race in San Francisco.
The decision to organize a golf tournament stemmed in large part to Kajlich’s love of the sport.
“Golf is one of the sports that is near and dear to my heart,” said Kajlich, who lettered in five sports at Bishop Blanchet High School in Seattle.
Golf was one of the last sports Kajlich started to participate in again after the accident.
“Getting out with friends and getting to enjoy the day was really worth it,” he said. “It was natural to choose a golf tournament as a way to host a fundraiser.”
Kajlich also hopes to raise awareness about the Challenged Athletes Foundation.
“It serves such a huge role,” he said. “They can really help people in my situation to pursue an active lifestyle.”