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Congenital amputee who loves challenges trains for Mount Kilimanjaro

By Phil Gast, CNN
updated 6:13 PM EDT, Sat October 8, 2011
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Kyle Maynard's arms end where elbows would be; his legs end above the knees
  • He has participated in football, wrestling, mixed martial arts and other physical challenges
  • Mission Kilimanjaro is training for African climb in January
  • Maynard's mantra: There's a life to live -- so live it

(CNN) -- Congenital amputee Kyle Maynard is taking his "no excuses" mantra to the next level, training for a Mount Kilimanjaro climb that will be his biggest endurance test to date.

The athlete and motivational speaker talked by phone Saturday from the Appalachian Mountains of North Georgia, where he had completed a five-mile hike in forested conditions akin to the lofty heights of Tanzania.

"I've never done anything that lasted this long," he said of the intense training for the January expedition.

Challenges are nothing new for Maynard, 25, who grew up and lives in suburban Atlanta. In fact, he thrusts himself into them.

Born with arms ending where elbows would be, and legs ending above the knees, Maynard urges people to stop complaining and get up and do something.

He lives and trains by his own advice.

The young man played nose guard on a youth football team and wrestled in high school. Later, he stared down mixed martial arts opponents and took part in an elite fitness program. Maynard operates a gym in Suwanee, Georgia, and has made about 80 speeches this year.

Now he has Kilimanjaro, all 19,000 feet of it, in his sights.

"Kilimanjaro will be a very difficult thing," said Dan Adams, who is co-leader of the expedition, called Mission Kilimanjaro. "It's 16 days of tremendous effort. Everything is geared about getting him in shape."

Maynard, author of the 2005 best-seller "No Excuses," is attempting to become the first quadruple amputee to reach the summit, Adams told CNN.

Mission Kilimanjaro aims to project an inspirational "no-barriers mindset" and deliver $25,000 in medical supplies to an organization that helps Tanzanian children, many of them blind, at a school in the city of Moshi. The group of climbers will spend a day of activities with the children and hopes to keep them up on Maynard's progress by live satellite feed, Adams said.

Maynard and Adams will be joined by athletes and former U.S. servicemen, including a Marine wounded by a suicide car bombing in Iraq.

Training locales for Maynard thus far have included Colorado and Stone Mountain, Georgia.

As he climbs, Maynard either swings his upper body to move forward or does a bear crawl on all fours.

To protect himself from rocks, terrain and blisters, the athlete uses a foam layer and taped portions of bicycle tires on his limbs. He doesn't wear prosthetic limbs.

"There's no Ace Hardware in Africa where we are going to pick up gear," Maynard told CNN Atlanta affiliate WGCL. "If something breaks, we've got to be sure we can fix it."

Adams believes Maynard will be able to handle the altitudes on Kilimanjaro. Blisters and endurance will be the biggest challenges, he said.

"In life, if you have the right mindset, anything is possible," said Adams, founder of an organization that empowers clients to reach their potential.

Maynard told CNN he is considering trying Ironman triathlons after the Kilimanjaro adventure.

"There is no possibility of running out of things of getting myself into," he said.

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