Freeman Cebu Sports

The Amazing Rex Gonzalez

ALLEZ - ALLEZ By Jose Vicente Araneta -
Rex Gonzalez was 8 and was walking home from the beach when something got stuck in his slipper. He saw a piece of wire, grabbed it with his left hand to remove it when, "Bam!" his hand suddenly fell off! He had touched a live wire left buried in the earth by VECO linemen, who didn’t put the wire safely away after a typhoon. At the hospital, the doctor cut his arm near the elbow to prevent a possible infection.

Instead of moping and getting withdrawn, Rex went on to live his life like any 8-year old kid. He would tag along with his Dad to work, delivering papers around the neighborhood on his bike. Unlike some kids who grew up getting teased because of a disability, he never for a moment thought that he had only one arm. He’d play with other kids without asking any favors and would go on to do things that only special people would ever dream of.

Alumnus was a hotbed of cycling in Cebu then. One of his neighbors, Dondon Romales, who was five year his senior, was a budding cyclist. Romales, who went on to place second in the 1984 Marlboro Tour, became his idol when Rex reached in his teens. To support himself, he delivered newspapers, and trained thrice a week to Santander hoping to ride the Marlboro Tour. Unlike most cyclists who breathe and sleep only of the Tour, he was also busy finishing a degree in Marine Engineering at the University of the Visayas.

For two years, Rex failed to make the cut for the Tour but in 1987, he finally made it. That year, Rex was the most popular rider in the peloton. Fans who were glued to their radio sets would line by the road to see this one-armed wonder. Rex wasn’t just a sideshow, he was true cyclist, banging elbows with the fittest athletes in the toughest sport. Cycling fans were so enamored by Rex’s grit that he was showered by praise and cash at every town they stopped. In fact, he brought home P100,000 from bonuses compared to the 20,000 he won from finishing 53rd out of 66 riders. Rex proudest moment as a cyclist came in the penultimate Olongapo-Antipolo stage of that Tour when he won on a break. That would be his first and last Tour participation.

In 1988, with the Tour trying to get UCI accreditation, Rex was banned by the GAB saying that his disability is a danger in the peloton. While the reason was probably true, there were whispers that lots of cash donations for Rex’s prosthesis were missing and the people responsible didn’t want the donors to find out.

Rex was so crushed by the decision that he stopped riding for the next few years. Since he didn’t want to work abroad as a seaman, he bought a motorbike to deliver papers in his route. He invested his money in the transportation business, got married to Cheryl and have 3 kids. And from a racing weight of 119lbs, he ballooned to 150. And so in 1999, he dumped his motorbike and went back to training. These days, he is happy and contented and he is racing for team SPARK KLEEN.

Rex strength on the bike was on the climbs and on the flats because of his big motor. While his bike handling skills is above average, his sprinting, descending in the rain and rough roads were his bane. He also couldn’t stand on his bike. And what about the brakes? Well, Jun Farrarons, owner of ASP Cycle Haus, spliced the front and rear brake cables so when Rex would squeeze one lever, the two brakes would go to work.

What I like about Rex is his sunny disposition. He is cocky but not arrogant and he gets along well with other people. And he harbors no rancor in his heart. When I asked him why he sells papers for a living instead of going abroad, he said that he simply loves the job.

If you see a one-armed newsboy on the street, say "hi" to Rex!

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