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Community helps teacher try for Ironman

Ted Freedman, a recently retired physical education teacher at Wood-Gormley Elementary, waves to a passing student from his bicycle on Old Santa Fe Trail. (Eddie Moore/Albuquerque Journal)
Ted Freedman, a recently retired physical education teacher at Wood-Gormley Elementary, waves to a passing student from his bicycle on Old Santa Fe Trail. (Eddie Moore/Albuquerque Journal)

For about the past two decades, Ted Freedman’s preoccupation has been the triathlon circuit, while his occupation has been taking those experiences and sharing them with the students at Wood-Gormley Elementary School.

The message the 64-year-old physical education teacher has tried to convey to his pupils is simple: “I try to teach the kids that if you try hard enough, work hard enough and dream, those dreams can come true,” Freedman said.

Now, those words will be put to the test.

After Freedman, 64, announced his retirement after 17 years with the school, the Panther community decided it was time to see if hard work and dedication could indeed make dreams come true – Freedman’s dream, that is.

Kona Inspired
• Kona Inspired was launched in 2012 as an alternative way to enter the Ironman World Championship in Kona, Hawaii, without having to qualify. Contestants submit a 90-second video demonstrating how they exemplify the Ironman motto: “Anything is Possible.”• Round one of voting concludes Friday. The 45 finalists will be split into three groups of 15 and a new round of voting will begin June 5. The final voting period will be done in 10-day increments, per group. Visit the Kona Inspired website at konainspired.thismoment.com for final groupings.• For a direct link to Ted Freedman’s video titled “Persistence, P.E. and Pushing Your Limits,” go to http://bit.ly/12UTmt7

“I’ve known Ted a long time, and I’ve known that he’s wanted to go and race in the Kona Ironman,” said Matt Desmond, 41, a Wood-Gormley Elementary School parent. “It’s the Super Bowl and the World Series of triathlon, and over the years it’s gotten more competitive and more difficult to get in – and I know how close Ted has gotten.”

Desmond, who twice competed in the Kona Ironman, also understands that time is ticking for his longtime friend, who has serious back issues, including scoliosis, stenosis, arthritis and protruding discs.

“I happened to see this contest online called ‘Kona Inspired,’ so I said, ‘Hey, Ted. There might be a way for you to get in,’” Desmond said. “His story is really compelling and it lends itself to (the Ironman) motto: ‘Anything is Possible.’”

So in the span of four days, Desmond assembled a team of videographers and volunteers to help compile a 90-second video for the Kona Inspired contest, demonstrating Freedman’s story of inspiration. Seven hopefuls, based on their videos, will be selected to compete in the Oct. 12 Ironman World Championships.

Sharon Doyle, Wood-Gormley principal, offered her support by describing Freedman’s role in making physical education a priority in New Mexico.

“When Ted started (17 years ago) there were no P.E. teachers in the elementary schools unless parents raised money for it,” she said in Freedman’s video. “So one of the things that Ted did was that he started lobbying the Legislature to have elementary P.E. teachers funded through the state.”

Desmond added: “He took the bull by the horns and learned how to lobby at the Legislature. He took kids over to the Roundhouse and jumped rope outside during the session. He really fought for not only Santa Fe Public Schools, but schools throughout the state.”

Now, roughly one month into the project, Freedman’s video has racked up more than 13,500 votes, which places him near the top 10. And the amount of support has been overwhelming, Desmond said.

“I’m only the person who got the ball rolling but there were so many people who stepped up, wanting to help – it’s taken on a life of its own,” he added, describing his campaign. “This is a big thank you to Ted from everybody, and if he gets to Kona, it will be a great beginning to his new life.”

When Freedman – who most recently missed qualifying in 2010 by one spot during the half Ironman in St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands – was asked to sum up what competing in Kona would mean to him, he said, “It’s what I’ve always aspired to do. I teach kids to always strive to be all they can be. Now I’m just trying to live what I’m teaching.”

The first round of voting concludes Friday, with the top 45 videos advancing to the finals. The criteria for advancement is as follows: Viewer votes count for 50 percent; 30 percent is based on how well each person exemplifies the Ironman motto, “Anything is Possible”; and the final 20 percent is based on the artistic merit of the video. The 45 finalists will then be divided into three groups of 15. Final voting for each group will begin June 5.

In all, seven entrants will earn a spot in the 140.6-mile Kona Ironman on Oct. 12. Those seven spots are comprised of two winners from each final group, and a “wild card” spot will be awarded through a panel.

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