But she was up for the challenge. She started with the bike, learning how to ride in her Brooklyn apartment. Swimming was more challenging. There was a swimming pool a few blocks from her house. But every day she would get off the subway and find people staring at a one-legged man begging on a subway platform. That strong image made it impossible for her to think about going to the pool, shedding her metal leg, and diving in. Instead, she would take a detour on the way home and crash on the couch with a pint of Ben and Jerry's ice cream. That daily routine lasted a year. She talked herself into heading back to the pool, 15 minutes at a time for another year. A move from New York to California made it easier to train outdoors. By 2004, she was on her way to Hawaii. She was 12 years in training.
Reinertsen's endurance was not lost to the race, even though she was handed an exit slip when she missed the window for the biking leg by 15 minutes. Her unfinished business led her back to the Ironman challenge a year later, when she finished in 15 hours, 5 minutes, and became the first woman with a prosthetic leg to win the coveted triathlon. "There were 400 two-legged people behind me," Reinertsen said. "It felt great."
A year later, she was asked to audition for The Amazing Race and won a spot on the world tour. Reality show regulars got to know Sarah Reinertsen through her adventures in China, Mongolia, India, Vietnam and Kuwait. The race ended for Reinertsen and her partner in Kuwait when they got lost and ended up in the throes of a mob of people watching a beheading.
Reinertsen graduated with a degree in broadcast journalism, produced a television show on Olympic athletes, worked for the Challenged Athletes Foundation, which is an organization that supports athletes with disabilities, and for a company that builds prosthetic equipment. These days, she has a busy career as a motivational speaker and often lends her body to test future generations of artificial legs. She also spends time visiting amputees at Walter Reed Army Medical Center.
"My voice as an advocate for people with disabilities is breaking down walls, showing people that everyone has challenges that can be overcome with passion and hard work," she said.
For more on proximal femoral focal deficiency, go to the Association of Children's Prosthetic-Orthotic Clinics.
SOURCE: Sarah Reinertsen, author, In a Single Bound