Conner and Cayden Long are one special set of brothers. When cerebral palsy threatened to keep Cayden in a wheelchair, his big brother, Connor, stepped in and changed everything for him.
Conner and Cayden Long and Their Road to Victory
At seven years old Conner had noticed that his little brother, Cayden, couldn’t do many of the things he could do. He couldn’t walk or talk, and he couldn’t play sports, which was one of Conner’s great joys in life. One day when Conner noticed a kids’ triathlon in a Nashville Parent Magazine that his mom was looking at, he had an idea. Conner wanted to compete, but he also wanted Cayden to be able to compete; so he asked his mom if Cayden could compete with him. She was hesitant, but he insisted that Conner and Cayden Long were a team.
So Conner and Cayden Long decided to start doing the triathlon together in a way that worked for them. Their parents were in touch with triathlon organizers, and received support from a youth triathlon coach named Mandy Gildersleeve, who guided them as they gathered the equipment that they would need to race together. Their first race was in the summer of 2011. It included 100 yards of swimming, three miles of biking, and half a mile of running. Cayden loved swimming the most and was spotted laughing the whole way. For the bike, their coach Gildersleeve rode beside Conner pulling Cayden in a trailer behind her. But Conner wanted to be the one to pull Cayden; so eventually, after the largest hill, she moved the trailer to Conner’s bike. It took Conner and Cayden Long 43 minutes and 10 seconds to complete their first triathlon together. When they crossed the finish line, Cayden’s fists were pumping in the air!
Starting from their hometown in White House, Tennessee, they travelled all along the East coast, competing in races. They got a lot of attention from the triathlon spectators and inspired many to reach for the determination that Conner and Cayden Long have demonstrated. And participating in this together was very special for them, and it bonded them even more, according to their parents. After some time, Conner took on more; Connor pulled Cayden in a raft during the swim, he pulled him in a trailer for the bike, and he pushed him in a trailer for the run. Now they compete in triathlons as the best team around. That’s how Conner and Cayden Long won the SportsKids of the Year award in 2012 with 14 races already under their belt.
At the SportsKids of the Year ceremony, the crowd was visibly moved. LeBron James spoke after the boys accepted the award at the ceremony, and he was speechless. He was close to tears, and commented that if the story had been any longer, he wouldn’t have been able to hold them in any longer. James shared about his two boys and how they would be watching Conner and Cayden Long and their story to see how they can care for each other, as well. At the time of the award, Conner and Cayden Long’s goal was to race in Hawaii at the Ironman World Championships.
Watch their story here:
Where are Conner and Cayden Long Now?
The boys have continued to race together in triathlons and marathons for years. They competed in various races and promoted awareness of families impacted by disability. Conner remarks how sad he is to see when people make comments about his brother. He wants them to know that his brother may look a certain way on the outside, but he can understand what people are saying and he has feelings just like everyone else does. It is clear that Conner has a deep love and appreciation for his brother. Although the page has not been active for several years, the boys do have a Facebook page called The Long Brothers. And in 2016, the brothers’ mom authored a book called Expect a Miracle about Conner and Cayden Long and their family’s journey. The family hoped to set up a foundation to help families with disabilities. So where are Conner and Cayden Long now as they move from teens to adulthood? Comment below, if you can share more about their story!