|Wong heads to the finish line of his first Half Ironman. Photo by courtesy of Creighton Wong|
Creighton Wong was born with a congenital birth defect, leaving him without several fingers on each hand and a partially amputated right leg. The long-time Raiders fan and Bay Area native hasn't let this physical challenge stop him. Wong will compete in the Challenged Athletes Foundation Million Dollar Challenge, a 620-mile bike ride from San Francisco to San Diego, in October.
Despite his birth defect, Wong was always active growing up. "I loved competing whether it was basketball, football during recess, dodgeball, it didn't really matter," said Wong. "I loved competition, I loved physical competition."
However, as he got older, his age group got bigger and faster and he was no longer able to keep up. "Sadly enough, back in the day, the technology wasn't there and the access wasn't there in order to keep up, so as each year went by, the gap between me and my peers would grow a little bit bigger in terms of the ability to be on a level playing field," Wong explained.
Wong was then introduced to the Challenged Athletes Foundation (CAF), which reintroduced him to athletic competition. CAF's mission, according to its website, is to "provide opportunities and support to people with physical disabilities so they can pursue active lifestyles through physical fitness and competitive athletics."
|Wong at the starting line of one of his races. Photo courtesy of Creighton Wong|
As Wong got involved, he started to get the funding and support he needed for the equipment necessary to compete. "Slowly but surely I got a running leg, got a biking leg, got an adaptive bike," said Wong. "For the first couple of years all I did was swim in triathlons as part of a team. As I got the equipment settled, got my fitness settled, then I started doing the entire triathlons on my own."
Wong recently competed in his first Half Ironman (1.2 mile swim, 56-mile bike ride and 13-mile run) in Oceanside, Calif., and will compete in the Million Dollar Challenge in October. His goal, besides completing the physical feat, is to raise awareness for the organization that helped him get back into athletic competition. "I try and fundraise for them and race for them," explained Wong. "Really as an older athlete, trying to get more awareness out there so that these next crop and generation of kids will have access and will have the technology available to them so that they can compete in whatever it is they want to compete in whether its triathlon, track and field, football, baseball, whatever it is."
Competing in the events is more than physical activity for Wong. "What I like in terms of competing is dreaming and visualizing something that isn't possible today and working towards making it possible tomorrow or the next day," said Wong. "So there's still a lot of work to be done, even now. But it's a fun process just to take yourself to another level."
|Wong tries on Raiders Legend Cliff Branch's Super Bowl ring. Photo courtesy of Creighton Wong|
Wong has accomplished a lot since getting involved in CAF and hopes to be an example to, not just the disabled community, but also able-bodied people. "Really through racing through the Challenged Athletes Foundation, I've been given an opportunity to basically reach a much wider base of people," said Wong.
Wong has been a Raiders fan for years and has had season tickets since 2001. "We loved all the defensive players, loved Lester Hayes," said Wong. "Picturing him squatting down, all dirty, with Stickum all over, getting in the face of the wide receivers and stuff like that."
As Wong continues to train for the CAF Million Dollar Challenge, he has the Raiders behind him. "It means a lot [to have the Raiders support]," said Wong. "By and large most of the relationships fans have with their teams is fans buying tickets and supporting the team. To have that support given back, it's really important just to know that there's that synergy and relationship between the fan base, the Raider Nation, and the Raiders organization. And in today's day and age when it seems more and more so that sports organizations are profit driven only, without much consideration for their fans, I think this is a very unique and special thing. And after getting the Raiders support, I think I saw they raised [money] for the Oakland schools. These are things that really should be applauded and looked at in terms of this is how you take an organization and integrate it into the community. It really means a lot."