Minda Dentler speaks at TEDWomen 2017 – Bridges, November 1-3, 2017, Orpheum Theatre, New Orleans, Louisiana. Photo: Stacie McChesney / TED

For most competitive athletes, the Ironman World Championship is the pinnacle of physical achievement: a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike ride, and 26.2-mile marathon.

But for Minda Dentler (MBA ’08), completing this grueling triathlon meant so much more than bragging rights. Ms. Dentler, stricken with polio at six months old—and abandoned in an orphanage in India—has been paralyzed in both legs for as long as she can remember.

Adopted by a family in Spokane, Washington, at age three and a half, she discovered hand cycling Dentler photo courtesy of TED as a young adult, and the sport stoked her interest in physical competitions. The only female wheelchair athlete to have ever completed the Ironman World Championship, which she accomplished in 2013, Dentler has finished three more Ironman triathlons since. Triathlons are never an easy feat, especially for Dentler, who—although childhood surgeries, along with leg braces and crutches, have enhanced her mobility—completes all three aspects of the race with only her arms. “Preparing for an Ironman takes about six to nine months,” explains Dentler, who typically trains between seven and 15 hours a week and competes in half Ironman events as part of her full-distance Ironman training regimen. Minda Dehntler

Dentler uses her experiences to inspire others and effect social change. As a motivational speaker, she’s delivered a TED Talk about the power of perseverance. “I have learned more from the times I have failed than when I have succeeded,” explains the energetic alumna, who failed the first time she attempted an Ironman. She also works with humanitarian organizations to end polio in her native India, traveling there in 2015 and personally vaccinating children against the disease that so drastically impacted her own life.

In her professional life, Dentler currently serves as a program director at AIG and is proud to have received her MBA from Baruch’s Zicklin School of Business, which helped her transition her career to finance. She lives in NYC with her husband and three-year-old daughter and says she sometimes has to pinch herself when she thinks of how her life has unfolded—and the adversity she’s overcome. “I really credit having the best group of friends I could ask for and a family that has supported and encouraged me with every new dream, goal, or plan,” she says. Her next goal: to complete a half Ironman on every continent but Antarctica.

Gregory M. Leporati

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