Gaylord Gauntlet provides new challenge for Stamford man who survived subway accident

Rome Leykin has a motto, "Relentless, forward, positive momentum. Practice makes progress." That mindset recently got him to the Gaylord Gauntlet, a "Tough Mudder style" 5K at Gaylord Hospital in Wallingford, featuring mud, trails, meadow running and 24 obstacles.

Marissa Alter

Jul 29, 2022, 9:30 PM

Updated 683 days ago

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Rome Leykin has a motto, "Relentless, forward, positive momentum. Practice makes progress." That mindset recently got him to the Gaylord Gauntlet, a "Tough Mudder style" 5K at Gaylord Hospital in Wallingford, featuring mud, trails, meadow running and 24 obstacles.
More than 800 athletes tackled the course this year, which took mental and physical strength. Leykin was new to the event, but he's overcome his own share of obstacles in life.
Leykin lost his legs in 2018. He was living in Brooklyn at the time, waiting for the subway, when he had a seizure while on the platform.
"That caused me to fall onto the subway tracks that caused me to be run over and hit by a subway train, leading to my amputation," Leykin explained.
He also suffered a traumatic brain injury. Leykin spent a year at Berk Rehabilitation Hospital in White Plains relearning the basics like how to talk, read and write—all while in a wheelchair.
"I knew that there are people out there that walk in prosthetics freehand that are bilateral above knee like me. Let's go find them, let's go see what they do, let's go talk to them, copy and paste," he said.
So in 2021, Leykin started wearing short prosthetics and later, his current ones. Talking to other amputees also led him to adaptive sports. His videos on social media, where he has a large following, show him hiking, golfing, bowling, rock climbing, horseback riding, playing hockey, skiing, handcycling, even water skiing.
Mono-skiing was his first foray into the world of adaptive athletes thanks to Gaylord Sports Association.
"Its one mission is to bring people who have had some type of injury back to sports," explained Dr. Steve Holland, chief medical officer at Gaylord Hospital and Gaylord Gauntlet race director.
The Sports Association is funded solely by donations, which is where the Gaylord Gauntlet comes in.
"All of the tickets, donations, etc. go to the Sports Association," Holland said. "And we feature adaptive athletes in this race."
It's the nonprofit's largest fundraiser, taking in $75,000-$90,000 a year.
Leykin said when he heard about the event, he immediately signed up. "They were one of the ones that got me started on this journey, and the more people that do this the better."
The Gauntlet was Leykin's toughest test yet athletically, and it came during sweltering heat. Members of the team from Hanger Clinic did the course alongside him, helping when needed. A few obstacles had to be skipped, but together they crossed the finish line in about three hours. Leykin raised his arms in triumph to a cheering crowd.
"Oh my gosh, it was unbelievable! It was so worth it!" Leykin told News 12, visibly tired but smiling big.
Leykin trained for the challenge by hitting the gym, something he didn't do much of before his accident. But losing his legs has made exercise a huge part of his life. He said it's because of the community he's found there. Getting in shape has just been a side benefit.
"Going to these events gives me an opportunity to be around people who've done it longer, who do it better. That's how I learn. That has been the catalyst for doing as many of these sports as I can," he said.
Leykin admitted it's not easy, and it's rarely perfect. But that's OK. No matter the pace, he will continue to push ahead with each step getting closer to his goal of making an impact.
"The inspiration that I got initially from people in the amputee community—now it's going full circle. Now I am able to start giving back the inspiration that I got, and that is starting to mean way more to me," Leykin said.


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