Climbing through mud pits and scaling boulders and walls is inherently difficult, but even more physically challenging for competitors using prostheses. Rome Leykin and Malek Sabr were up for the challenge and among the adaptive athletes who decided to run in the 2023 Gaylord Gauntlet on Saturday, June 24.
Calling themselves “the BAKA bros,” the two met on Facebook and became friends, meeting each other in person for the first time at a boot camp in 2022. Lori Riley covered the weekend race in an article for the Hartford Courant.
Although Rome made a valiant effort and cleared several obstacles, he had trouble keeping his prosthetic legs attached and made the wise decision to stop early. Malek reluctantly continued without him and completed his first 5k. Now 31 years old, Malek became a bilateral amputee at age 11 when he stepped on a land mine in his homeland of Afghanistan. He went on to become an elite swimmer and competed for his country in the 2014 Paralympic games. “I made a lot of new friends,” he said. “It was amazing.”
Rome became a bilateral amputee just over five years ago after a traumatic accident on the New York City subway. Known for his optimism and resilient attitude, Rome didn’t let the fact that he didn’t finish the race deter him from making it his goal again next year. “This is part of the process,” he said. “I know it will eventually get easier and better.” With some adjustments he should be better equipped to handle the terrain and even complete the course with a competitive time.