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The heart of speed skating: Patrick Rice's unlikely journey

Patrick Rice, 20, is an inline speed skater with a dream of one day competing for Team USA. Patrick was born with six heart defects and is diagnosed with autism.

GUNTERSVILLE, Ala. — "I just enjoy the feel of going fast," explains Patrick Rice. "It's kind of it's kind of like drag racing. Once you get into it. You're just you're stuck with it. Just the feel the wind going against you."

Patrick seemed destined to be a speed skater since his very first competition.

"When I first started off my very first competition I made it on podium for the very first time," says Patrick. "I didn't realize when I first did it that I made it on podium until I got off the floor because they're like, you do realize you just made it on podium, right? And I'm like, No, I did not. They're like, Yeah, you did. And I'm like, oh, that's cool."

That moment proved that Patrick is great at inline speed skating, a sport he only began learning seven years ago, which was a miracle in itself. 

"Patrick was born with six different kind of congenital heart defects," explains Jeniffer Rice, Patrick's mother. "He had open heart surgery a week and five days of age where they went in and basically patched the VSD and stopped his heart, putting on a heart lung machine and switched the arteries to where they were supposed to be. They told us there was a good chance that he wouldn't live past 11."

Against the odds, Patrick made it to age 11. But shortly after his 11th birthday, Patrick had a heart attack. 

"He had an episode when he was 11 years old," recalls Jeniffer. "They had to go in and do four stents in his heart found he had an enlarged heart. And they got him back on track and it was after that where he picked up skating. His doctor wasn't happy about it, but he wrote off on it."

With the doctor's permission, Patrick began his new journey on wheels while negotiating his physical limitations. 

"When I first started off, my heart wasn't used to it," says Patrick. "So it took me a bit to get used to it, but now it's really it's no problem." 

"He will let me know when he's done and I know when not to push him," says Brian Inzer, Patrick's coach.

"There's like some points that I start having few problems, but it kind of takes a lot longer than what it did before a long time ago," explains Patrick. "I normally know my limits and know when I have to get off."

"It's not just the heart problems," details Jeniffer. "It's the autism. It's his dyslexia. I mean, it's all of his conditions. He does not let them slow him down or hold him back in any way. If he can figure out a way to make it happen, he will."

"I've never seen a child at his age have so much determination on what they want," explains Nakita Baker, Patrick's stepmother.

Now 20 years old, Patrick is on skates every day. determined to not let his birth defects define him. 

"I don't let it stop me," says Patrick. "I just kind of do my own thing."

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