As the sun began to rise on a humid, summer Louisiana morning replacing the early morning fog, right over the Audubon bridge, #322 was getting ready for his first ever triathlon.
“I guess it was November, December when Tiffany said, ‘Hey Christopher, how do you feel about a triathlon?’ I don’t think he knew what he meant but he’ll do anything for Tiffany, so he came home and asked if he could do it and I said, ‘Yeah, if you want to do that, you’re more than welcome to do that’,” said Mary Ballard.
Mary Ballard is Christopher Ballard’s mother. Christopher is 25-yrs-old and has down syndrome but he doesn’t let that keep him down at all.
His friend Tiffany Landreneau, who he used to practice swimming with at Southeastern University, is who pushed him to do the triathlon. It’s why Christopher had been swimming 1800 meters for two hours daily. Then, he went outside to run and eventually bike.
“I started in January and I been practicing January, February, March, April, May and now we in June,” said Christopher.
The reason his mom was practicing with him for swimming, biking and running, Christopher told her if he’s doing a first, she had to do it with him despite her foot surgery in March 2021.
“Something inside of me said if he wants to do it, who are you to dampen his parade. If he wants you to do it then you need to get out there and do it too so as soon as I finished my surgery, I got out and I started walking and started jogging and found out I could jog better now than I could before my surgery,” said Mary Ballard.
“I told my momma, I said, ‘I can’t, I can’t do this.’ In my head, and Jesus said, ‘Yes you can because you can do all things, overcome them, rainmaker’,” said Christopher Ballard.
And he sure did overcome the triathlon at the Freedom Fest in New Roads with Tiffany by his side through it all.
Right behind them was his mother in all three races.
With one of the fastest swim times for Christopher with about 16 minutes, it was time to make a transition. Christopher rode five miles in 70 minutes. Meanwhile, his mom was just a few minutes behind him the whole time and had a total of 10 miles to bike.
All the while, their entire family and friends watched proudly from the sidelines.
Last, it was two miles of a run with Christopher taking off first and his mother just five minutes behind him.
Finally, with signs in hands, it was finally time for the moment 42 minutes later. Everyone was cheering Christopher on as he crossed the finish line full of emotions.
To make it all the more special, Tiffany gave him his medal and Christopher put Tiffany’s around her neck.
With tears in his eyes, Christopher said, “This medal, all these years, I’ve been in the Special Olympics and I got this medal and Jesus made me happy. I can see Him right now.”
“I pushed him because I knew he could do it. He can do anything as long as his mind is set,” said Tiffany.
Just minutes behind Christopher was his mother Mary crossing the finish line as well.
“I’m tired. I didn’t think I had it in me. I was swimming and everyone was passing me up and I thought, ‘Oh boy,’ but when I got out, I saw people behind me. On the bicycle, I was excited people were passing me up until a 72-yr-old man passed me up and I said that’s it. On the run, my focus was just to stay up with Christopher so I could watch him cross the finish line,” said Mary Ballard.
But she said it couldn’t get any better than not only all her family waiting at the finish line, but her own son right there to give her that very first hug! Their total finish time was only about four minutes apart!
“I feel happy,” said Christopher.
“I’m so happy too,” said Mary.
When asked if he plans to take part in another triathlon, Christopher said no, but after Tiffany asked him to at least try, he did say he will surely try another one.