GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. -- Rockford athlete, Johnny Agar, challenged his inspiration Michael Phelps to train with he and his father, or cheer them on, as they prepare in hopes of being invited back to the IRONMAN World Championship.
At 23, Agar has competed in more races than most, competing on a world stage with cerebral palsy: from walking the final mile Aug. 2013 in a Rockford 5K featured on ESPN's E:60, to the 2016 IRONMAN World Competition in Kona. For the past eight years, he and his father Jeff, Team Agar, pushed beyond even what they thought their limits were.
Thursday arriving on his campus at Aquinas College in Grand Rapids, Agar is a local celebrity, high-fiving basketball players as soon as he was inside the training complex. He's a sports management student whose presence is known.
On his Team Agar website, he published a training video that's getting thousands of views in just two days: him training for Kona this fall, mirroring his inspiration Michael Phelps in his Under Armour "Rule Yourself" campaign. Agar says Phelps and his former routine is training Team Agar.
“I showed dad the video," said Agar, "so now he uses a parachute [swimming] like Michael Phelps does."
Laughing with FOX 17 Thursday, his mother Becki Agar admitted how this Phelps' commercial is played regularly at home. "[Johnny would] constantly watch it for inspiration for him before he’d have to do something. And I’d turn around and I’d hear that song again.”
And in Agar's video, you see him walking alone on his school track. He shared how Phelps is the inspiration that pushed him while training to walk unassisted for the first time in his life during this recent filming. Now his challenge to Phelps:
“Michael I challenge you to race with Dad and I soon, and maybe we’ll meet in Kona on race day!" said Agar. "That would be a dream come true for me to watch you compete with me and race in my sport, because I’ve seen you race constantly, and it would be a dream come true for me to show you how I compete now. Hopefully we can make that happen.”
And as Phelps, the most decorated Olympian of all time, has accomplished so much, so has Team Agar.
“The first time Jeff ever ran a 5K when Johnny had asked him to they got lapped by an 80-year-old power walker," Becki said laughing.
“That kind of made me mad a little bit, so I said, ‘Dad, why don’t we kick it in the butt a little bit and start training a little harder,'" Agar said.
It's this heart, along with this father and son's drive, that blossomed into Team Agar.
“It’s something that I hope to continue because I tell him all the time, ‘Dad, thank you,’ but to be able to continuously show him how much I appreciate it, you know that’s the main reason why I walk," said Agar.
Last October, Johnny and Jeff Agar completed the swim and half the bike portion of the IRONMAN World Championship. Now they're training daily in hopes of being invited to get back to Kona this October. First, they'll compete in April at the half IRONMAN in Haines City, FL to see if they qualify.
“[Dad is] working so hard to make sure that we can get back and because he knows how much I really want to walk that last mile," Agar said.