Stroke survivor will compete in IRONMAN Chattanooga - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

Stroke survivor will compete in IRONMAN Chattanooga

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CHATTANOOGA, TN (WRCB) -

Chattanooga is expecting thousands of people to compete in this weekend's IRONMAN triathlon.

But one athlete had a difficult road getting to the scenic city, a road that doctors didn't predict. 

Chris Conlon, 40, is a stroke survivor and made it his mission to cross the finish line on Sunday.

"First time. Full IRONMAN, medal.I want to train and finish," Conlon said.

It's always been a dream for Conlon to complete and IRONMAN triathlon, even before he suffered a stroke.

Conlon went in for knee surgery in 2012 and days later a blood clot caused a stroke. Conlon now has aphasia and life-changing injuries.

"Talking is hard," he said.

Conlon had to re-learn everything, including the components of a triathlon.

"Swim, bike and running."

The Baltimore native has his heart set on the Chattanooga IRONMAN and his family will be in town to cheer him on.

"There will definitely be many tears shed, both him and me, and mom, we're going to be so excited for him," said his father Ron Conlon.

Aphasia affects about 40% of stroke survivors. It's a form of brain damage that affects communication and language.

Speech pathologist Molly Trainor said Conlon's achievements this far are nothing short of incredible. 

"I've been working with stroke patients now for 15 years and I've never heard of somebody that has come back not only physically but mentally and emotionally enough to be able to compete in something so difficult," said HealthSouth Chattanooga Rehabilitation Hospital Speech Pathologist Molly Trainor.

Conlon doesn't care how long it takes him to make it to the finish line on Sunday, as long as he hears the words, "You are an IRONMAN."

"Stroke, brain, dead, but I wanna fight, I wanna finish!" Conlon said.

One of the biggest reasons Conlon is competing in the IRONMAN is to also raise awareness, and donations, for aphasia. He's already raised more than $6,000 ahead of Sunday's race.

To learn more about Conlon's story or to make a donation, click here.

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