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Anything is possible: Wisconsin man with cerebral palsy competes in marathons and Iron Man competitions

James Groh

Jul 13, 2023

Born with cerebral palsy and is wheelchair-bound, one Wisconsin man is proving that you can overcome any adversity."His motto is if you’re not tired, I’m not tired, and I’ve adopted that," Larissa Arellano said.Arellano is the running partner of Nick Salerno. Even though Nick is unable to speak or walk, he has completed marathons and an Iron Man.“This guy was going 40 mph downhill probably giving his mother a heart attack if she knew," Arellano said.Recent Stories from

They run with the organization called My Team Triumph which pairs people with various abilities together to complete athletic events. It's a national organization that is in 12 different states across the country.

James Groh

"He gets me to the finish of every single race. He gets me through the training days where I don’t feel like it, or I'm tired, or I'm hurting. I just have to think about Nick and his beautiful smile, and he gets me through it all," Arellano said.

In the case of an Iron Man, one person will push Nick in a specialized wheelchair for the running portion, he will be in a boat that's pulled by a swimmer, and tied to the back of a bicycle.

“The crowd loves him. I don’t get cheered for on my own, but when I’m with Nick everyone goes crazy for him.”

Nick is vocal but nonverbal. A head nod to the left means yes, and to the right means no. I asked him, "Do you love running with Larissa?" He shook his head to the left emphatically. He definitely loves running.

James Groh

“When you see the joy that he has, it just penetrates your heart. This is something that he wants to do, and I can’t stop him from living his dreams, and I want him to live his dreams," Nick's mom, Nancy Salerno, said.

Along with his athletic achievements, Nancy said he graduated high school, audited classes at Carthage College, and played roles in a movie called Power in My Hands and a TV show called Living Divine Mercy.

“He was born this way for a reason, and that reason is to show other people what it’s like to live with a disability and how many things you can do when so many people think that you can't," Salerno said.

But, for everything he has accomplished, Nancy says the greatest thing he has done was simply being her son.

“And I was given the gift to be chosen to be Nick’s mom which is - I mean you can’t get any better than that," Salerno said.

Next up for Nick is the Boston Marathon. While he and Arellano didn't run fast enough to qualify outright for a spot, the two hope to appeal for a chance to race in the historic marathon. If their appeal is accepted, they will likely have to do fundraising among other things as part of the requirements to run.

If that appeal doesn't work, Nick and Larissa will just try and try again until they are successful - proving no mountain is too high to climb.

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