Irish Tenor's Recipe for Accomplishment

You could say Irish singer Ronan Tynan puts a whole new spin on the famous ballad "To Dream the Impossible Dream" -- as much as in life as in his luminescent voice.

His dulcet tones have marked the passing of one president, the inauguration of another and brought tears to the devastated rescue workers at Ground Zero after 9/11.

But Tynan is not only one of the top tenors in the world. He's also a licensed medical doctor and a world-class athlete. And he did all this as a double amputee.

Tynan says his impressive life story has been the result of a relentlessly positive attitude -- a way of looking at the world that constantly defied self-doubt and always valued hard work.

"I am willing to work and prepare and polish," he told ABC News' Cynthia McFadden. "And then to crown it, you add that extra ingredient. You have the spirit."

Combination Therapy

Tynan was born in Ireland 44 years ago -- with both legs deformed, and each splayed foot displaying only three toes. Doctors said he would never walk.

His parents were devastated. They took the doctors' advice and left him in the ward of a children's hospital. Tynan says his parents were told he would have corrective surgery. But it never happened.

He also said, "That was the accepted practice [with such children]," he said. "Hide them."

But when Tynan reached the age of 3, his parents decided they had enough and brought him home to their farm southwest of Dublin. "I never resented what they did," he said, "because I think they showed me so much love after it."

The Tynans were determined to see their boy walk. As a boy he spent hours with his father, Edmond, talking and singing. The senior Tynan was easy to love. He constantly told young Ronan he was terrific.

"Eventually, you believe it. You do," the singer said. "You believe it because you see in others what others see in you -- a strength waiting to be harnessed."

His mother, Therese, was different. "She wasn't the doting mother who would slop and slurry and cry over you, and 'Oh God, love you,' " he said. She wouldn't rest until he accomplished something.

By age 4, Tynan had taken his first painful steps with steel braces and concrete shoes. His mother insisted they take a triumphant walk through town.

"I'll never forget it," Tynan said. He said his mother "paraded him" out, and when a priest asked, "Is this the weak little fella?" his mother replied, "None of my children are weak. Ronan is going to be a tremendous man."

Therese Tynan was full of tough love. Even when other children were cruel about his legs, she still made him go to school in short pants.

Tynan respects her for what she did. "She instilled in me a positive attitude that couldn't be shaken ... she made sure I stood tall, no matter what."

Physical Development

The confidence and courage helped when doctors told a 20-year-old Tynan he would have to have both legs amputated.

And when Tynan decided to become a world-class athlete, he believed he would. "I knew if I got into it, I would win," he said.

Tynan won 18 gold medals and set 14 world records in the Paralympics, the games for amputees.

Tynan then went on to compete with everyone else. He became the first double amputee to qualify and compete in the Dublin horse show.

No Fear of Failure

While he was competing with other athletes, Tynan decided to take on two more impressive challenges.

First, he went to medical school. Then, when he reached his fifth year, he decided he wanted to be a singer.

He took secret singing lessons and eventually entered the Irish equivalent of "American Idol," a show called "Go for It."

He won, and went on to complete medical school. But he couldn't stop thinking about music. The other doctors took up a collection to help send him to the Royal Opera Academy in England.

He was 33. "It was late to start, there is no question," he said.

But he says he never thought he would fail. "That's not in my dictionary. That word is not there," he said.

He soon became part of the platimum-selling Irish Tenors, and recently went solo. This month, his CD, "Ronan," was released.

He's even become America's singer without being American. He's now a regular during the seventh-inning stretch at Yankee stadium, and sports a New York Yankees Championship ring.

"I've become a New Yorker, I've become an American actually. I absolutely love this country," he said.

Mother Was Right

Tynan says when he gets ready for concerts, he often thinks about his parents -- and what it would be like for them to see him now.

His father died seven years ago, before his enormous success as a singer. His mother has Alzheimer's and no longer recognizes him.

Tynan says time has helped him see her in a new light. He's grateful she never gave up. "I thought of all the wonderful things she had given me," he said. "I don't think I would be who I am today without her."

He has written a song for her. It's called "Passing Through."

"'Passing Through' was my thank you to her for everything, and all her dreams," he said. "And it was, 'Thank you for the tough love, because you were right.' "

To find out more about Ronan Tynan, visit his Web site at