Fifteen-year-old Jerone Samari has cerebral palsy. But that isn't stopping him from competing in the XTERRA World Championship.
While most kids learn to ride a bike by the time they are six or seven, it took Jerone Samari until he was 12. The XTERRA athlete was born with cerebral palsy which affects the left side of his body and made it difficult to balance on two wheels.
“What actually happens is that half of the muscle groups on my left side are stuck in a contracted position,” explains Jerone. “I can’t release them and as a result, I don’t have a lot of muscle development and I’m limited. But on my right side, I’m completely functional and that’s how I can swim and ride.”
When he was young, Jerone tried to get on his bike multiple times, but because he couldn’t stabilize himself or his bike with the left side of his body, it was difficult for him to use his right leg to hop on and start pedaling.
“Trying to get on the bike was the hardest part,” said Jerone. “Once I could get that down, I was good to go.”
His father, Ravosh Samari, remembers that Jerone could ride for short periods when he was younger, but he didn’t have the strength to ride for any longer. Ravosh also remembers that Jerone refused to give up.
“I asked to ride my bike every day,” Jerone remembers. “And every day he would take me out. Soon I could ride for longer and longer without my dad having to catch me.”
Jerone says that his dad didn’t just help him, he motivated him. “My dad got into XTERRA and I really look up to him. When he started racing, I wanted to do a triathlon too. I loved watching my dad compete.”
Together, Jerone and his dad began training. Because he left side is limited, they had to figure out how Jerone could compensate with his right side.
“My dad helped me most by helping me practice,” said Jerone. “Ultimately I had to figure it out by myself. But my dad was by my side the entire time. He guided me through without enforcing anything.”
Jerone’s first triathlon was a sprint race in Calgary. “I did it with my cousins and it was the best thing I ever experienced,” said Jerone. “I was inspired by so many people because they were just so fast.”
Now, at 15, Jerone is on his school cross-country team at the Maui Preparatory Academy in addition to training for triathlons. His teammate is fellow XTERRA competitor Jonah Kirkham, who inspires Jerone as much as Jerone inspires him.
“Jonah and I are on the cross-country team together and on weekends we go on rides,” said Jerone. “It’s a partnership I never thought I’d have.”
At first, Jerone stuck to road triathlons, but then he saw an XTERRA.
“Once I went to an actual XTERRA event and saw it up close, I set my sights on it. It was so awesome to see the pros race and then watch my dad ride by.”
This weekend, it’s Jerone’s turn. He and Jonah are both going to be lining up at the starting line and competing in the 15-19 age group. Jerone’s goal is to finish in about six hours and thirty minutes.
“What I know after training for XTERRA is that nothing is impossible. Everyone I know is capable of doing an XTERRA. It’s all about putting in an effort. Then slowly, you can be more confident in your abilities. Once people can work on something, that’s when they are able to know that they can do anything.”