A devoted father has completed a triathlon while carrying, biking and pulling his disabled teenage daughter.
Rick Van Beek took part in Michigan's Sanford and Sun triathlon/ duathlon this weekend – and so did 13-year-old Maddy, who has cerebral palsy.
Van Beek completed the three-event race which included an Olympic triathlon with a 0.9-mile swim/24.9-mile bike/6.3-mile run, the sprint triathlon with a 0.3-mile swim/12.4-mile bike/3.1-mile run, and the duathlon with a 3.1-mile run/12.4-mile bike/3.1-mile run.
Scroll down for more pictures of Van Beek and his daughter
The 39-year-old alternately carried Maddy as he ran, pushed her in a buggy, pulled her along in a cart as he biked and swam while pulling her in a kayak.
Writing online, he said: "She is my heart and I am her legs, though someday she might not physically be able to be there with me, she will always be in my heart, quietly cheering me on."
He told The Midland Daily News: “She functions like about a three-month-old and one of the very few things that we know she enjoys is being outside, being in the water, feeling the breeze in her hair and in her face, and going over all the bumps.
“This is our fourth year running, and our third year doing triathlons together. This is our seventh or eighth triathlon this summer.”
Van Beek is in the process of forming a charity he plans to call Team Maddy, which will raise funds to build equipment for children with special needs.
Writing on his blog two years ago, Van Beek, who had smoked since the age of 12, told of how he was inspired to improve his health and start exercising.
He said: "I watched my daughter Maddy being pushed in the Grand Rapids Marathon.
"I had cheered for Maddy’s older sister and her pitching, her younger brother and his ball playing, but never Maddy, till that day. To see her being so happy and enjoying every bump in the road was more than I could handle, my emotions took over.
"Shortly after that day I gave up smoking 2 packs a day and chewing a tin a day to be better, for Maddy.
"It has been a long road, with many bumps, but we are better. We are doing this, as you can. From 100 yards to 15.5 miles, it has been awesome.
"Every time you take the next stride and feel the pain and want to quit, think of Maddy and suck it up. One more stride, one more breath, one more mile, it is not going to kill you."
Marc Crank, chief executive at the London Centre for Children with Cerebral Palsy, said: "This is a remarkable story of a parent’s devotion to their child.
"We see what a parent’s love and determination can achieve; it is the most powerful factor in ensuring a child has the best quality of life possible – inspirational!"
A spokesman for the Cerebral Palsy Plus charity said: “The article reflects the attitudes of our own members in that they are always eager to meet new people, try new things and make new friends whatever their age.
"The majority of our members are in wheelchairs or walk with aids, as such sporting activities available can be limited. Specialist equipment that helps enable better inclusion into society is often extremely expensive, not necessarily available on the NHS or through social services and so for many of our members inaccessible without additional assistance from organisations such as ours.”
For more on Team Maddy, click through this slideshow:
Video of Van Beek and his daughter participating in the Tri Allegan this year