Disabled swimmer shows ‘true grit’

Scott Ruby celebrates with Nikki Christian after their finish at the Flowers Sea Swim on Saturday. – PHOTO: JAMES WHITTAKER

Of the nearly 1,000 swimmers to cross the finish line at the Flower’s Sea Swim on Saturday, few can have displayed more courage and tenacity than Nikki Christian and Scott Ruby.

Ms. Christian, who has cerebral palsy and is wheelchair-bound, was towed from start to finish by family friend Mr. Ruby, who completed the race pulling a kayak. Ms. Christian, 25, had to train hard to develop her core muscles to stay upright in the kayak.

Mr. Scott has overcome his own obstacles, losing more than 150 pounds since 2009, going from being severely overweight to becoming a skilled and committed endurance athlete. The duo completed the Cayman Islands marathon together and are building toward an Ironman, supported by a team of volunteers in a group called “Nikki’s Voice.”

Mr. Ruby said Ms. Christian is his inspiration.

“She is the heart and soul of this group; we just loan her our bodies. She smiled the whole way. She was having a blast and so were we,” said Mr. Ruby, who swam with his friend Jessica Jackson in support.

“The motivation lies with Nikki. When you see someone who wants to do it but just doesn’t have the physical capabilities, any inclination you have to stay in bed just pales into comparison with her desire to get out,” he said.

Ruby and Christian power to the finish line.
Ruby and Christian power to the finish line.

The group swam an hour ahead of the field, so the entourage and the kayak would not affect the other swimmers or vice versa.

“We are so happy to be included, and we thank the Flowers [family] and the organizers,” said Mr. Ruby.

“To allow us to compete is a step in the right direction for cerebral palsy awareness and the awareness for all people with disabilities,” he added. “We are letting them know that their participation is wanted, appreciated, even needed. If you are feeling that is a daunting start line, look up at that kid. This time last year, she had no thoughts of being in a sea swim. True grit, a little bit of love and determination, that’s Nikki’s voice.”

Ms. Christian’s father, Raymond Christian, said the events have helped his daughter, who graduated from Triple C School in 2009, get a new lease on life.

“It is about trying to keep her mentally and physically active. She is wheelchair-bound, so the more outdoor activity we get her involved in makes sure she doesn’t get bored.”