Greg Tyler Introduction
Hello everyone! I am Greg Tyler and I am new to the PossAbilities Paralympic Training Program. I started my career in Triathlon in 2010 after a motorcycle wreck crushed my left side, causing me to lose my left arm at the shoulder and paralyzing my left leg. I broke 15 bones, punctured and collapsed both lungs, severed 2 arteries, and died twice.
Initially I started just doing whatever I could for rehab, the only thing that wasn’t damaged was my right arm from the elbow down so I got in a pool and just tried to keep my head above water. As the weeks progressed I got where I could doggy paddle, then swim a few laps. I kept at it and my legs got stronger and eventually I was introduced to a recumbent trike. After almost a year in a wheelchair that I could barely use one handed I was finally free again!
I kept swimming and got better and faster on the trike. It built up new muscles in my legs that weren’t damaged in the wreck. I got where I could walk with a cane. But using a cane one handed means you can’t carry things or open doors and it wasn’t as much help as it should be. So I dropped the cane and walked around like a cat on ice :). But I got better at it and if you can swim, ride an adapted bike, and walk, you can do a triathlon! 2 years to the day I did my first triathlon, taking last place by a mile. It was a huge accomplishment :).
I kept training and in my next race I took second to last. Not only did I finish, I beat someone who was able bodied. It was at that point I realized we didn’t know what the ceiling was and my disabilities may not be the handicap we thought they would be. I kept training (a theme that continually reappears in my story). I got better and faster. After a fellow triathlete mentioned a great event out in Loma Linda I signed up for the PossAbilities triathlon. It was an amazing event! The course was hard but well put together and Cotie and Pedro were extremely welcoming. I made friends with people and saw the Paralympians at the time and how fast they were, people with similar injuries at the very front with the professional triathletes. The chase was on and I knew I wanted to be up there too.
Season after season I kept training and every year looked forward to the PossAbilities and Loma Linda triathlons. PossAbilities supports its members in many ways, for me the community and sense of belonging was invaluable. Training might fill your days, but community fills your soul.
My swim and bike improved. I moved to the front of the pack. But I finally did encounter something I couldn’t overcome. Due to my paralyzed leg I had to walk the run portion. And every race it was the same, people I had passed on the swim or bike would jog past me and there was nothing I could do. Eventually I realized I could be good at triathlon, but I wouldn’t be able to win. So in 2015 after 5 years and qualifying for the world championship race, I switched over to cycling, my strongest event.
I competed in road cycling races and saw that I was much better as a sprinter, and started competing in shorter and more technical races with lots of high speed maneuvers. Criteriums are very fun and exciting, as are downhill mountain courses :). Eventually I found the velodrome. I did a handful of practices and was invited to a competition in Colorado Springs. It turns out this was the 2015 national competition and I took 3rd place in 3 events :). I was invited to the Paralympic tryout a few months later and took second in my division. In 6 years I had gone from wheelchair bound to riding one of the most difficult tracks in cycling on an upright bicycle and being the Paralympic alternate. It was truly an amazing accomplishment.
Shortly after this on an adventure vacation to Myanmar I sustained a huge injury to my paralyzed foot while exploring a holy site in the middle of the jungle. Triathlon had given me the ability to explore, but exploring had a whole new set of challenges. I was bed bound for almost a year waiting for it to heal. I went from the best shape of my life to barely able to turn the pedals on my bike.
But I kept training, and month after month got better and stronger. I started swimming and walking again. I started doing triathlon again, and something else had happened. Technology had not stood still over the past 10 years. Carbon fiber running legs had come out, and someone at the Hangar Clinic had figured out how to adapt them to legs like mine. I was selected to receive an ExoSym device, which is basically a prosthetic running leg that wraps around your paralyzed leg. It was amazing, I could run again. But due to a decade of atrophy the muscles in that leg were extremely weak. I realized I would have to spend years rebuilding it. So I signed up for ballroom dance and started walking and jogging on it as much as my leg could handle.
I got better and faster. I got where I could do more than walk on it, I could run and dance and spin on it like an ice skate. It was as good as my real leg. I kept training, I got better and faster. I was training for Ironman and the 2020 Paralympics. This time I was sure I would make it. And then disaster struck again. Covid closed everything, from the dance studio and the gyms to the bike trails and beaches. There was nowhere to train and nothing to do. Boredom set in. One day my roommate mentioned he had tried fencing in elementary school and it was a lot of fun. So we bought $50 starter kits on Amazon and went in the front yard and started sparring. I was hooked.
After doing that for a few weeks and watching YouTube videos, I told him “I don’t think we’re doing it right, we should get a coach.” I searched and the greatest fencer in history had a gym 20 minutes from my house. And it was open. We signed up for lessons immediately. I took my Ironman training and put it to good use, doing thousands of reps in a session instead of 40 or 50. I fit years of training into a few months.
PossAbilities, who had helped me continually through my triathlon and cycling career helped me once again. I went to the annual celebration dinner and saw Owen and Andre and people who had started around the same time as me were now on the international stage and it inspired me to reach out to USA Fencing. I was invited to the national competition a few months later and placed in all 3 events, taking 3rd in Saber :). This was good enough to make the national team and the national team competes internationally on a regular basis. My second competition was in Italy a month later :).
That was the 2023 season. Much like triathlon I started in last place, but I kept training, and getting better :). I finished the 2023 season with big wins in Wales, making me the best in North and South America. I have 3 months of off season to continue to improve, then I need to officially win the zone at the zonal competition, and defeat some of the best guys in the world in May to qualify for the Paris 2024 Paralympics. Qualification is going to come down to the last match of the season. Just how I like it :).