Cypress, TX News – Ironman Success Story Leo Bourgeois Visits Swenke Elementary

Cypress, TX News (June 2, 2014) - Ironman triathlete Leo Bourgeois shared his inspirational story of overcoming great odds to achieve greatness with Swenke Elementary School students during a daylong visit to the school on Friday.

Bourgeois, who garnered local media attention for a 200-pound weight loss journey capped by 2013 and 2014 Ironman Triathlon finishes, visited Swenke at the request of his triathlon coach, Swenke P.E. teacher Katie Proko.

Proko, a first-year teacher who has coached triathletes since 2011, said the visit was spurred by a kindergarten student who told her, “I want to be like Leo,” prior to his May 17 Ironman race in The Woodlands.

“I recorded the student’s voice, and I played it for Leo right before the start of his race,” Proko said. “Leo said he wanted to meet him, and I told him we could make that happen. I offered for him to come up during recess or lunch, but Leo volunteered to take an entire day off work and speak to all of our students throughout the day.”

Ironman Triathlon finisher Leo Bourgeois shares his success story with Swenke Elementary School first-grade students in the school gymnasium on Friday.

In 2013, Bourgeois narrowly missed the 17-hour cutoff by 1 minute, 11 seconds to be considered an official Ironman finisher. In 2014, he shattered his previous mark with a time of 16 hours, 18 minutes.

He shared practical lessons for the students that he learned while participating in the difficult competition, which consists of a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bike ride and a 26.2-mile run.

“The most fun I had was riding the bike,” he said. “I rode as fast as I could, and when I passed people up I constantly encouraged them and told them they were doing a great job. Sometimes words of encouragement can help a person and keep them going. I encourage you to do that also. Be there for your friends and support them.”

Bourgeois, who struggled with numerous medical problems caused by his obesity, shared with the Swenke students one of the catalysts for deciding to change his lifestyle.

Bourgeois and Proko lead “The Sid Shuffle” dance routine from the movie Ice Age: Continental Drift during Bourgeois’ visit to Swenke Elementary School.

“I went to my daughter’s school one day to see one of her activities, and I could see the sadness in her eyes,” Bourgeois said. “Later on that day, she told me that some of her classmates were teasing her about how big I was. I felt bad because I didn’t want to cause embarrassment to my daughter. I stayed away from her school and activities for a period of time, and it really hurt me because I wanted to be there.

“Now, since I’ve lost the weight, I’m probably the loudest parent there at my two daughters’ activities.”

Bourgeois and Proko reinforced the importance of healthy eating habits and regular physical activity, and even led them in “The Sid Shuffle” dance routine from the movie Ice Age: Continental Drift.

“I love being around the children,” Bourgeois said. “They ask so many great questions. I find it an honor just to share my story with them. With a lot of them, you don’t know what they’re going through, so it’s nice to spend time with them and talk to them, and let them know I’ve been where you are.”

Proko said she was equally as excited about Bourgeois’ visit to Swenke as she was about his 2014 Ironman finish.

“It gives me chills because I see how much these kids were inspired by Leo’s story,” she said. “I wish I could capture their facial expressions when they watched the video of Leo crossing the finish line. They have been coming up to me left and right, saying how they love Leo and they want to do an Ironman. It’s nonstop excitement.”