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Blind athlete and the 'Voice of Ironman' made 2022 Arizona competition a special event

Francesco Magisano had been working with Achilles International to prepare for Arizona's Ironman triathlon.

PHOENIX — Countless hours of blood, sweat and tears paid off for hundreds of Arizona athletes taking part in the intense Ironman triathlon this past weekend.

Competitors endured swimming in Tempe Town Lake, biking along the Beeline Highway, and then running through the beautiful Papago Park.

12News caught up this year with a man who’s turning his disability into possibility.

“This is actually going to be my first ever full Ironman,” said Francesco Magisano, who didn’t grow up thinking he could become an Ironman. “I’m totally blind and growing up I never did any type of sports, because there just wasn’t really the infrastructure or the opportunities.”

But with the right resources, Francesco found a way.

“I found an organization called Achilles International,” he said. “It’s a nonprofit for people with disabilities involved with endurance events.”

Training for the triathlon requires a lot of time and dedication. Just listen to the distances: a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bike ride, and then a 26.2-mile run through Tempe and Mesa.

“A lot of swimming, biking, running, time on the feet,” Magisano said. “For someone who’s totally blind, it’s interesting, because you know a lot of times it’s me coordinating with training partners.”

One of the things he’s looking forward to is hearing announcer Mike Reilly, also known as “The Voice of Ironman,” saying the phrase, “You are an Ironman!”

“His voice is just so iconic,” Magisano said.

It’s something Reilly has always felt honored to say.

“The four greatest words in sports,” Reilly said.

This race will be particularly memorable for him. After calling more than 200 races, this is the last race Reilly will call in North America before retiring from the role he’s loved so much since 1989.

“I see some of the most amazing athletic feats there is to see, better than a homerun, better than a touchdown,” he said. “I get to see everyday people accomplish their goals of doing an Ironman race, which proves to me that anything is possible.”

Even though he’s retiring from Ironman, you can be sure Reilly will still stay plenty busy with his grandkids, traveling and of course, his podcast.

“Still got my podcast “Find Your Finish Line,” so I’ll be doing that, and I’ll always be a part of this world swim, bike and run.”

And his words at the finish line – “You are an Ironman” will forever be etched in the minds of Ironman athletes like Francesco.

“I don’t know what’s going to happen hearing that dude’s voice, but there might be a teardrop,” Magisano said.

Ironman New Zealand will mark Reilly’s final race tallying 214. To Mike Reilly - Congratulations and enjoy all that time you’ll have to love on your grandkids and travel.

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