2017 XTERRA WARRIOR
This year’s XTERRA Warrior Award Winner was John Davis, challenged athlete and founder of the non-profit, 2Xtreme.
In college, John Davis was an NCAA All-American swimmer and USA National team member. In 1991 he led the University of North Carolina to three ACC swimming and diving championships and won 11 individual ACC crowns – the most in conference history. Additionally, he trained and tried out for the 1988 and 1992 Olympic Teams.
In 2014, John went from having total mastery over his body to being at its mercy when he began suffering the effects of motor neuron disease, which causes degeneration of the nerves that control muscle function. Instead of being effortless, movement was painful, and sometimes impossible.
Rather than resign himself to a smaller life, John decided to use his experience to connect to the at-risk youth he works with as a certified addiction counselor and founder of the non-profit foundation, 2Xtreme.
John’s doctor told him that either he needed to begin to move his body again, or he was going to die. Despite in intense pain and difficulty, John began by getting back into the pool and walking on the trails.
A year after his diagnosis, John had to undergo back surgery to alleviate compressed discs, stenosis, synovial cysts and arthritis in his lower spine caused by motor neuron disease. The surgery left him with difficulty bending over – and everyday things such as taking off and putting on shoes, became more difficult.
In 2015, while walking the trails near his home in Colorado, he came across a volunteer for XTERRA Beaver Creek, who told him about the event. John had never competed in a triathlon before, but he made it a goal to compete in XTERRA Beaver Creek in 2016.
While registering for the event, John met a woman who he thought was a volunteer – but who was really Janet Clark, president of XTERRA. He asked Janet for a chair in transition because of his spinal fusion, which she provided.
Janet cheered John on and invited him to the XTERRA World Championship. The following year, John decided to take 17 athletes from 2Xtreme to XTERRA Beaver Creek.
“Janet said I was crazy,” said John. “So I took 19.”
Leading up to the competition, John took the boys swimming, running, and mountain biking. He provided swim lessons, and Ms. XTERRA Deanna McCurdy and her husband David helped to provide instruction on the mountain bike.
John powerfully led the boys through his own example. While John looks like one of the fittest people on the planet, his disease is painful. Movement is necessary, but sometimes incredibly difficult.
“The motivation is, if I can do this, why can’t you move through what you have going on in your life?” John tells the boys he works with.
At XTERRA Beaver Creek this year, all the boys crossed the finish line of the sprint event with huge smiles on their faces.
“I can say to the boys, ‘So you’ve been knocked down. You’ve been kicked down, and you’re disconnected. You have a choice to make. Either you are going to move, or it’s only going to get worse.’ I’m able to parallel my situation to them and say, If I’m going to make all of these steps, you can too. It’s just one step.”