Staying active is an important part of growing up. Regular exercise in children promotes a healthy body and mind which will continue to benefit them as they grow older.
Most children choose to participate in team and individual sports like soccer, hockey, basketball, swimming, and gymnastics but for Jake Vella these aren't viable options. Instead, he competes in triathlons.
The 8-year-old boy's choice of sport may seem extreme but for him and his parents this is a matter of life and death.
Jake suffers from rapid-onset obesity with hypothalamic dysregulation, hypoventilation, and autonomic dysregulation, a rare hormonal condition that makes him uncontrollably gain weight even with a healthy diet and exercise routine. So in an attempt to extend his life as much as possible, he took on a tough form of working out.
"Triathlons help Jake to keep fit and active. It's good for his health and also gives him a chance to socialise with other kids," the Maltese boy's mom, Maruska, told Daily Mail.
Besides fighting for his life by partaking in triathlons, Jake lives like a normal kid. He goes to school and has hobbies like playing the drums. But his ultimate dream is to replicate the success of the Brownlee Brothers, triathletes who won gold medals for the United Kingdom.
He currently trains 3 times a week with the Malta Youth Triathlon Association but he follows a slightly different training plan.
"Some alterations are necessary in order to meet his special needs such as having to stop and go to the bathroom or keeping an eye on his heart rate and ensuring he doesn't get too hot," said his trainer, Matt Azzopardi. "But I always tell him not to change, to keep going and to do his best."
Of the 100 or so people in the world that have been diagnosed with this life-threatening condition, no one has survived past the age of 20. Despite all of this, Jake is hoping that his efforts and positive attitude will help him defy the odds.
His trainer put it best when he said that Jake is "an inspiration to many."