The morning of July 22, 2012 was a big one for folks at the Johnson Athletic Center at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Cambridge, MA. It was the start of the first annual New England Kids Triathlon, sponsored by the New England Patriots and the YMCA of New England, and it’s one of the largest events of its kind in the U.S. Despite all the celebrations for the event, the national spotlight turned to two amazing and inspiring brothers, Conner and Cayden Long.
The pair, who compete under the name Team Long Brothers, were the first to enter the pool in the eight and under swimmers, despite the fact that Conner is nine years old. He entered the competition with the younger kids because his brother Cayden is a 6-year-old with cerebral palsy.
“People don’t realize that when you’re special needs and in a wheelchair, you won’t be able to get out that much,” 9-year-old Conner told ESPN in November last year.
Conner came up with the idea of competing with his brother after seeing an ad for a kid’s triathlon last year. He asked his parents for permission, and with the help of the event’s organizers the brothers were able to compete alongside the other children.
“It was pretty inspiring to some people and it was cool to me that I took on the challenge to pull my younger sibling,” said Conner. “When I see him smiling and laughing, that means he’s having a good time.”
For the swimming portion of the triathlon, Conner had a special harness fitted around his chest that allowed him to pull an inflatable raft which held his younger brother. A lifeguard swam alongside the pair to make sure everyone was safe, and the crowd fell in love with the duo at first sight.
After completing the 100m swim for the first portion of the triathlon, Cayden was pulled from the water and buckled into the back of a special cart. The cart was attached to Conner’s bicycle, and he pulled his brother along behind his bike through the second portion of the event.
The cart was then detached from the bicycle, and Conner pushed it while jogging the half-mile final leg of the triathlon. As they jogged along, Pat Patriot, the New England Patriots mascot, was among the many fans cheering them on. As they crossed the finish line, in second from last place, the other children that had finished the race met them with hugs, medals, and some water for Conner.