– Triathlete and Motivational Speaker –
“I am inspired by my wife. She has stood by my side through all of my personal challenges”
Jeff Schmidt, best known as “Jerkyleg,” was raised in the small town of Rolla, Missouri, where he played soccer from the age of eight through high school. When he was 17, his life was changed forever by a kick to his lower leg that resulted in a nasty broken leg. Malpractice and complications left him with a mangled right foot and without the ability to compete in the sport he loved. Although he hadn’t given up, dealing with his loss was a challenge that he was not quite prepared to face. Jeff spent the ten years following his injury going through surgery after surgery and therapy after therapy to try to repair his right foot and ankle. In 2004, his wife, Jenny, and his mother-in-law, Sheryl came to him with a solution. They suggested that he have his right lower leg amputated; he was shocked and angry! He felt like he had fought so hard to keep his leg; he just couldn’t understand how they could ask him to do this. The reality was that his life was falling apart. He was fighting dependency to pain medication, mental depression and a real lack of clear thinking. It took three more years and nearly losing his family, to realize that Jenny and Sheryl were right. In order to get his life back, he needed to have his leg amputated. So, in 2007, he entered a Bay area hospital excited to finally get rid of what was tearing his life apart. In 2009, Jenny suggested he join the triathlon team that she was already a part of, it was Team in Training’s Ironteam. She was training for an Ironman, a 140.6 mile triathlon that consists of a 2.4 mile swim, a 112 mile bike, and a 26.2 mile run. Needless to say, he wasn’t in Ironman shape! Regardless, after some convincing by the team coach, he joined the team. He attempted his first Iron-distance triathlon in July of 2010, but he was not successful at that time. Still, the triathlon bug had bitten him! He rejoined the team the following season. This time he was training for Ironman Canada in Penticton, British Columbia, and he was much more prepared by the time of the competition. Although it wasn’t exactly in spectacular fashion, he completed Ironman Canada 2011 in 16:46:11, which is less than 14 minutes before cut off time! The following year Jeff was selected in the Physically Challenged Lottery for the 2012 Ironman World Championship! He was extremely excited and petrified all at once. He felt good going into the race, but he was not prepared for the choppy waters in the swim and the extreme winds on the bike. Still, he kept going. With 4 miles to go in the run, race officials told him that he wasn’t going to make the midnight cut off. Still, he kept going, and crossed the finish line at 12:25 a… 25 minutes late… only 25 minutes after cut off time…
Jeff in his own words
How does it feel to be an inspiration to others? Did you ever expect to become an inspiration?
I never expected my story to inspire so many people. It motivates me to continue to participate in more events. It feels really great when people tell me how much I inspire them. I believe that I have a awesome opportunity to continue to motivate and inspire others. It is incredibly humbling to know that my story inspires so many people!
Why are Triathlons so inspiring? What makes this sport so special around the world?
Triathlons are inspiring because they include three different disciplines (swimming, biking, and running) and combines them into one single race. The sport of triathlon is so special because average athletes get to race side-by-side with elite and professional athletes. There is a common respect between triathletes around the world that is somewhat unique and really quite special.
When did you start participating in triathlons? Where was your first competition?
I started participating in triathlons in 2010. My first competition was Vineman Iron-Distance Triathlon in Sanoma County, CA. I finished my first Ironman at Ironman Canada in Penticton, BC in 2011.
What motivates you in life?
I learned long ago not to take my abilities for granted. I feel extremely luck and fortunate to be able to be as physically active as I am. I am motivated by the challenges I set for myself. Whether it’s a professional, personal, or athletic challenge, having a goal motivates me to be a better person all the time.
What would you say to other people with similar ambitions?
I would tell others to face their personal challenges head on. We all have various obstacles in our lives. I challenge others to conquer their personal obstacles. If your brain is telling you lies about your ability to compete in a triathlon, then I encourage you to sign up for a race. Set that goal for yourself.
Who inspires you? Why?
I am inspired by my wife. She has stood by my side through all of my personal challenges. She continued to believe in me when I could not believe in myself. She motivated me to consider and go through a voluntary amputation. She introduced me to the sport of triathlon. She showed me how to be an athlete again. She inspires me every day to strive to be my best. I truly owe her everything.
How did you deal with obstacles in your life?
I have faced huge obstacles in my life. It took several years after my broken leg in 1997 before I started to deal with my obstacles in a positive way. For several years I dealt with my obstacles by self-medicating with pain medications. When I decided to have my amputation, I began to deal with all of my obstacles head on. Today I look at my obstacles as challenges that help develop me into a better man. No matter how difficult the challenge is, I can overcome anything that stands in my way.
What do you like most about Triathlons?
My favorite part of a triathlon is the incredible feeling of crossing the finish line. It is the reward for the physical effort and the mental toughness that it took to complete the race course.
Mention major accomplishments in your life other than triathlons
Partnered with GU Energy Labs to raise $82,000 for the Challenged Athletes Foundation in 2013. -2002 grad from Hope International University with a Bachelor of Arts -Married for 11 years
Do you support or represent any Non-Profit Organizations?
Yes. Challenged Athletes Foundation. Please support us at www.challengedathletes.org/