Local amputee firefighter and Orthopedic ONE patient talks to This Week News about Arnold Classic experience

By Marla Kuhlman, This Week News

Mifflin Township firefighter Anthony Torres participated at the Arnold Sports Festival with a team called Some Assembly Required, but he gave his all with fellow amputee teammates in a CrossFit competition.

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The six-member team of adaptive athletes didn’t win the March 1 Midwest Community Throwdown contest, but they beat two able-bodied groups, placing 38th of 40 teams.

“We were there to win,” Torres said. “We weren’t there just to show up. We did our best. We were ecstatic about it.”

The team, which comprises three men and three women, was made up of wounded warriors, firefighters, CrossFit coaches and athletes. Their injuries were battlefield wounds, congenital or the result of automobile accidents.

Some Assembly Required went head to head with teams of able-bodied athletes.

Torres, 39, just returned to active duty as a full-time firefighter in February 2013 after his left leg was amputated below the knee following a motorcycle accident.

He was involved in CrossFit, a cross between weight lifting and metabolic conditioning, before his accident and saw an online post seeking volunteers for a team about a month before the Arnold.

“I had no idea what it was for,” he said. “It happened really fast. I had been ‘CrossFitting’ on a consistent basis.”

He communicated with his teammates on Facebook until meeting them prior to the contest. They included adaptive athletes from Florida, Michigan, North Carolina, Virginia and Texas.

The contest featured multiple events, including rowing 500 meters, carrying a 100-pound dumbbell, pull-ups, pushups, hand-stand walks, single-arm push presses and lifting.

Torres said the lowest score by a team won an event.

“For first place, you scored one point,” he said. “The more points you scored, the worse you did. We never scored last place in any event.”

The Arnold Sports Festival was Torres’ first CrossFit competition, he said.

“I really just want to show other amputees that anything is possible,” he said. “Being an amputee doesn’t mean you are disabled. We are adaptive athletes who adapt to our new way of life. So far, I can do everything I did prior to my accident. I just have to adapt and overcome.”

Torres said he enjoyed the camaraderie with the adaptive athletes and other amputees he had met at the event.

He said he recently met a 23-year-old firefighter from Cincinnati who was in an accident six months ago.

“One of his chiefs heard about my story,” he said. “I went to see him in the hospital, and he came to the competition.

“I want to encourage amputees to not give up. I know what it’s like sitting in a hospital room,” he said. “It’s like time stops. You have to hang in there and get past the curves. I want to show them that they can do this, too.”

Next, Torres has his sights set on the Working Wounded Games at CrossFit Rubicon in Vienna, Va.

Locally, he’s also looking for a beneficiary for the 2014 Torres Trail 5K to be held the second weekend in September at Creekside.

The run was started by Torres’ co-worker and friend, Kenny King, as a fundraiser to help offset his medical expenses. It now continues as a benefit to assist others in need.

Torres said his main motivation is to give hope to others.

“I want to inspire an amputee or someone who’s disabled to show them, ‘You can do this. Don’t give up.’ “

In addition to working as a firefighter and CrossFit trainer, Torres said, he’s enjoying his 8-month-old daughter, Mila Jane, with wife Stephanie.

“This little girl is my main priority and wanting to enjoy life,” he said. “It can change in an instant.”

“As a patient of Orthopedic ONE, we believe Anthony represents the best in all of us,” said Scott Van Aman, the surgeon who performed Torres’ amputation. “His strength to not only overcome adversity but continually challenge what we believe is possible is inspiring. He is not only a hero to the amputee community but to all of us.”