The Year’s Most Inspiring Athletes

January 24th, 2013 by Andrea Bennett

Two brothers show the world what sportsmanship really looks like.

Brought to you by Liberty Mutual's
The Responsibility Project

In the two days that elapsed between someone sending me this video and my writing this entry, you could safely say that it had gone viral on Facebook, jumping from 283,000 shares to 367,000 and growing.

The video is spreading with good reason; it’s the most inspiring example of great sportsmanship and brotherly love that many of us will likely ever see. And it couldn’t come at a better time, during the seemingly constant barrage of stories about doping, fobbing bad behavior off on teammates and general poor sportsmanship.

The story is that of Conner and Cayden Long, 9 and 7 years old, respectively, who have competed in 14 races together (from 5Ks to triathlons) with the goal of someday competing in the Ironman World Championships in Kona, Hawaii. The Ironman, a grueling triathlon consisting of a 2.4-mile open water swim, a 112-mile bike ride and a 26.2-mile marathon run, is widely considered to be the most demanding test of physical prowess and endurance available to athletes.

But what really makes the Long’s story stand out is that at four months old, Cayden was diagnosed with cerebral palsy, which has left him unable to walk or talk on his own. At the time of his birth, doctors warned his parents that Cayden would be a burden, advising them to put him in a specialized care facility. Conner had other plans.

A year and a half ago, Conner participated in a weekend race, pulling Cayden behind him. They finished last, but more races followed, providing a way for the brothers to bond. Conner swims while pulling Cayden in a raft, bikes while towing his brother in a trailer and pushes the trailer during the run portion. Cayden, says Conner, gets excited for race day, staying up until the wee hours the night before, and smiling and laughing the whole way through the race. The brothers have raced up and down the East Coast, gathering an enthusiastic following and serving as an important example of great sportsmanship. Their incredible spirit, according to Sports Illustrated Kids, is what made them the clear choice for the publication’s SportsKids of 2012.

In the video, Conner sums up the boys’ attitude, saying, “If people could race with people that can’t walk or talk…it might open eyes…and maybe the people that [didn’t] care in the past will care in the future.”

Have an inspiring sportsmanship story of your own? Share it here. And learn more about how you can encourage your kids to play sports responsibly on the Liberty Mutual Insurance Responsible Sports site.