At 22 years old, Jim MacLaren was at the top of his game. He was an All-American athlete at Yale and an aspiring actor. But in an instant, it would all be gone. MacLaren would be forced to remake his life, not once but twice.
MacLaren was riding his motorcycle in New York City the first time tragedy struck.
"It was just an evening that felt full of possibilities," he said. But that night, he was struck by a city bus. He was so badly injured, he says police "chalked my body on the street."
"The next thing I remember was waking up naked in a hospital eight days later after being in a coma," he said.
MacLaren had lost a leg in the accident, but not his spirit. He became the fastest one- legged endurance athlete in the world, breaking the marathon world record and setting the world record in the Ironman triathlon.
"And it hit me, I thought, wow I'm back in it. I'm back in life," MacLaren said.
Then tragedy struck again. Eight years later, while biking in a triathlon, he was struck by a van and paralyzed from the chest down.
"And then I get to the hospital and the doctor said, 'You're a quadriplegic and you're never gonna move or feel from the chest down for the rest of your life,'" he said. "A buddy of mine came to see me from Yale, and I remember I just rolled over and looked at him and I said, 'I don't know if I can do this again.' 'Cause I didn't."
But once again, MacLaren made the tough decision to transcend his devastating circumstances. After enduring thousands of hours of painful rehabilitation, he stunned and inspired all who knew him by defying the odds and regaining some movement and feeling in his limbs.
The Challenged Athletes Foundation, created originally to help MacLaren get back on his feet, is now helping and inspiring disabled athletes around the world to acquire special equipment and training.
MacLaren's vision for his own life and the strength to transcend all obstacles continues to motivate others. He is a motivational speaker and studying for a Master's degree in mythology and a doctorate in psychology.
In July, MacLaren was given the Arthur Ashe Courage Award at the 2005 ESPY Awards to honor his tough spirit and resilience.
"I found my strength by saying and believing, I am not my body, I am a man," he said. "I'm alive, as alive as anybody who's jamming a basketball, or hugging a child. Being alive is being alive, it's a good thing."