Athletes Without Limits Triathlete Sean O’Rourke Becomes First Developmentally Disabled Ironman

August Update: He’s done it! Sean is an Ironman – watch for a full race report soon!

June Update: Read about Sean’s recent training week in The Bend Bulletin.

March 22, 2017
Contact: Barry Holman (

O’Rourke Being Coached for 140.6 Mile Event by  Professional Triathlete and Ironman Broadcaster Matt Lieto and AWL co-founder Barry Holman

(BEND, Ore.) – It has been called the ultimate test of human endurance and perseverance, and now Athletes Without Limits triathlete Sean O’Rourke is training to become the first developmentally disabled athlete to complete a full Ironman distance race. O’Rourke, 40, will attempt to complete the 140.6-mile event, which includes a 2.4 mile swim, a 112-mile bike, and a 26.2-mile run, at Ironman Lake Placid on July 23.

“Overcoming adversity is a daily occurrence for Sean, so completing an Ironman, while extremely challenging both physically and mentally even for athletes without a developmental disability, is just one more challenge he is motivated to take on,” said Barry Holman, founding president of Athletes Without Limits. “Sean has never been one to let his disability get in the way of achieving his goals and dreams, and his journey to become an Ironman is an inspiration to athletes and individuals regardless of whether they have a developmental disability or not.”

O’Rourke was diagnosed with a developmental disability that resulted from ingesting lead-based paint as a child. According to the Mayo Clinic, “Children younger than six years are especially vulnerable to lead poisoning, which can severely affect mental and physical development.”
“When Sean first told me he wanted to do an Ironman, I did some research and was surprised to learn that he would be the first developmentally disabled individual to complete a full Ironman distance triathlon,” said Holman. “He is a prime example that the drive to test one’s limits lives in all of us and that drive, coupled with opportunity and support, makes anything possible.”

Professional triathlete and Ironman broadcaster Matt Lieto, who lives in Bend Ore., will work together with Holman, also a Bend resident, to coach O’Rourke in his quest to become the first developmentally disabled Ironman and monitor his progress remotely as O’Rourke lives with his wife Pavla and son Sean in Northport, New York. O’Rourke will also be at the Athletes Without Limits headquarters in Bend this June, where Lieto and Holman will coach him through an intensive training camp.

“Given the dedication and tenacity Sean has already shown in his training, Barry and I are confident his efforts will be rewarded on race day,” said Lieto. “Just by showing up at the starting line in Lake Placid on July 23, he is shattering stereotypes and opening doors that were previously closed to people like him.”

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About Athletes Without Limits:
Founded 2009 and based in Bend, Ore., Athletes Without Limits is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization providing athletes with intellectual and developmental disabilities platforms to train and compete on a national and international level in mainstream and para sport. Through its training hubs in Washington D.C., Georgia, Oregon, Texas, and Virginia, AWL has served more than 500 athletes in 10 sports including basketball, cycling, rowing, skiing, swimming, table tennis, Taekwondo, tennis, track & field, and triathlon. The organization’s mission is to promote inclusivity in sport for all, especially U.S. athletes with intellectual disability. For more information visit

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