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CNN SUNDAY

Interview With Bob Wieland

Aired March 9, 2003 - 18:52   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: What's the biggest goal you've reached lately? Well, Vietnam veteran Bob Wieland just finished a marathon, that alone is impressive but get this. This 57-year-old athlete lost both legs to a mortar in the Vietnam War and it took him a little more than a week to complete the Los Angeles race on his hands. There you see him right there.
Well, guess what, we're lucky enough to have him with us right now from Los Angeles to talk more about this incredible journey. What is it with you, Bob, you've done L.A. marathons just like the one we just saw? You've done New York marathons and even the Iron Man. What is it about the lure of doing these very courageous events?

BOB WIELAND, VIETNAM VETERAN AND MARATHON RACER: Well, it's only by the grace of God. I believe it's truly a gift. I was a physical education major at Cal State University at Los Angeles and coached in the National Football League for a couple of years with the Green Bay Packers, so I've always enjoyed fitness and just the challenge that goes along with it that creates some intensity. That's an intense as you can get.

WHITFIELD: No kidding, to say the very least. Well, you know, what is the greatest triumph for you doing these marathons given that it seems like you're making it a habit these days?

WIELAND: Well, it's really, I tell people the joy is in the journey. It's always great to cross that finish line that you set for yourself but by no means did I do it by myself. I had a tremendous support crew led by Sammy Maloof (ph) and I was awake, I don't know, 165 hours. They were awake. Every time I was going they were going and they pushed me. They encouraged me. They prayed for me and we finished what we set out to do.

We always tell people, you know, it's too soon to quit and that's what happens with people's lives sometimes. They face an obstacle, face a barrier and they want to give up and you can't stop a person with a big heart.

WHITFIELD: A big heart indeed you have. And so, what was it that inspired you to do these marathons? Had you been doing marathons before the Vietnam War and you injury or was this something new that you decided, you know what, I'm going to take on yet another huge challenge?

WIELAND: Well, I actually had an aspiring professional baseball career with the Philadelphia Phillies before I was drafted by our country and I want to clarify I was very, very happy to serve. I'd serve in a heartbeat again. But I laid down my life for my friends one day and the end result was I lost my legs. I didn't lose my heart and then I took up my rehabilitation program. One thing led to another and ended up being world record holder in the bench press with a personal best lift of 507 pounds.

WHITFIELD: Oh my gosh.

WIELAND: But I knew cardio training was important so I began the cycle and then one day I went to an athletic facility that had a tartan (ph) track and I said well this is kind of neat and I just jumped out of the wheelchair, had my partner time me with a stopwatch and I just wanted to see how fast I could go around the track on my arms. One lap led to two. Two laps led to three and that, you know, ended up going across America and doing all these races.

WHITFIELD: Well, Bob, there's just no stopping you. I'm almost afraid to ask what is next because I know there's something next for you.

WIELAND: Well, I'm getting ready to do a couple big triathlons. That's the swimming, the biking and the running, but just ask God for continued guidance and direction and the direction that I should go and continue to encourage and inspire others again never ever, never ever, give up.

WHITFIELD: Wow, Bob Wieland thanks so much. You're incredibly inspirational on so many levels. Congratulations and thanks so much for joining us, appreciate it.

WIELAND: You're welcome.

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