Blind Triathlete Honors Fallen Officer

Officers, disabled triathletes inspired by Soderberg's memory

By Zach Christman
|  Sunday, Aug 29, 2010  |  Updated 4:15 PM CDT
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<a title=Mazen Istanbouli, the blind triathlete who partnered with Thor Soderberg, remembers his legacy of helping those who need it most." />

Zach Christman, Sharon Wright

Mazen Istanbouli, the blind triathlete who partnered with Thor Soderberg, remembers his legacy of helping those who need it most.

Usually, the Lifetime Chicago Triathlon is full of powerful emotions of crowning accomplishment tempered with strife. But this year, the memory of a triathlete who dedicated his life to helping others was heavy on the minds of many competitors.

Earlier this year, CPD Officer Thor Soderberg was gunned down while on duty. Those who knew him were shocked at the loss. Not only was Soderberg a dedicated officer, but he spent his off hours helping disabled athletes strive to become the best they could.

One of those who knew him best was Mazen Istanbouli, a man stricken by blindness who nevertheless wanted to become a triathlete. Soderberg and he became close friends as they trained together, Istanbouli holding onto Soderberg while the latter gave an almost constant description of the terrain ahead, so Istanbouli wouldn't lose his footing.

"Truly, this whole race was dedicated to him," Istanbouli said after running this year's triathlon with a different guide. "I felt that the least I could do ... is keep his memory alive by doing triathlons in his name."

Plenty of police officers run the Chicago Triathlon, and those who spoke with us after the race all said they were thinking of Thor.

"Every time I struggled out there, I dug deep and remembered the struggles his family is currently going through now, and all the other officers that knew him," said Officer Mike Ghuneim.

Istanbouli said it's people like Soderberg who make it possible to live a very rich life, despite your disability.

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