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Inspiring Austin

Austin rallies to support cancer survivor's journey to the Ironman World Championship

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Austin Photo_News_Mike Thompson Kona_June 2012
Mike Thompson Courtesy of Mike Thompson

Most people are annoyed with traffic, bills and all of life’s little challenges, but not Mike Thompson. “I embrace the things that annoy most people, because they remind me that I’m alive,” Thompson says.

There was a time when Thompson, a 26-year-old Austin native, didn’t think he’d live to enjoy life’s ups and downs. Thompson was diagnosed with acute meloid leukemia (a rare blood cancer in children) when he was 10 years old. The following years were met with chemotherapy, two bone marrow transplants and dozens of surgeries, including a facial reconstruction due to a tumor in his jaw.

“I’ve been to hell and back more than a few times,” Thompson says.

In 2000, Thompson officially beat cancer, but the path to survival came at a cost: He lost 40 percent of his hearing and part of his lung capacity. The chemotherapy stunted his growth and doctors told him he would likely never run. But he didn’t listen.

“Obviously being a cancer survivor I know a little about obstacles, so it’s easy for me to be competitive when people tell me I can’t do something," Thompson says.

With his unstoppable spirit, he decided that he would not only run, but complete an Ironman Triathlon, an event that includes a 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike ride and 26.2 mile run.

“I spend my days training for my next Ironman... I run, I bike, I swim, I paddle, I eat. I do all these things because they remind me I’m alive."

Thompson knocked out Ironman Texas last year and now his eyes are set on the Ironman World Championship in Kona, Hawaii on October 13. “It is the most sought after endurance event in the world and you can only get in by qualifying or via lottery."

He didn't qualify for the race, nor did he win the lottery, but he still has a chance to represent Austin in the World Championships with your help. He is hoping to be one of the triathletes selected to participate in the race through a new program launched this year called Kona Inspired.

Along with 45 other semifinalists, Thompson has created this short inspiring videos about his life. If his video has the first or second most votes in its category, he will earn a spot in the race. Currently, Mike Thompson finds himself in second place in his group, with a video that has received more than 100,000 votes.

“I get butterflies thinking about,” he says. “It's overwhelming the outpour of support from all over the world.” Thompson's video message, "Love for Life," has gone viral with friends, family and acquaintances from Mexico, Brazil, Spain, Belgium and Japan.

The city of Austin is also rallying around the four-time cancer survivor with various media outlets, fitness groups and the general public spreading the word via social media, email and word of mouth.

“I have to admit I selfishly hope I win, because I really want to race in Hawaii with the best triathletes in the world," Thompson says.

"But above all, I just want to inspire people to live their life and not let negativity bring them down. Life is short, a gift, and not guaranteed forever."

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You can vote here for Mike Thompson. You are allowed to vote multiple times a day using different methods including your iPad, iPhone and personal computer. Voting ends on July 3.

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