Spotlight On... Para Triathlon
It’s a Paralympic summer, but don’t just watch the sports, try them!
Parasport's Spotlight On… series offers a quick glimpse into the world of a Paralympic sport – the thoughts, feelings, emotions and behind the scenes details that may be hidden to the outside world.
In the next part of the series, we spoke to para-triathlete Mike Jones, who was diagnosed with a spinal condition when he was 49 but has since competed in a number of Ironman triathlons and distances.
Now aged 60, Mike – who hails from Swansea – still reaps the mental and physical benefits of doing the sport, as well as passing his knowledge on to others.
Tell us about how you got into triathlon and your progression to where you are today
"I got into triathlon years ago as I used to provide safety cover for triathlon events. I always thought I'd like to give it ago but in those days, there weren't any separate para events to take part in so I started off just by doing mainstream events. I built up my distances and competed, and I still want to compete, but with Covid there aren't many events that are suitable for me.
"My condition has worsened since lockdown, so I'm a bit worn down, but I still want to do another triathlon as long as there's one that's suitable for me. I have a spinal condition that is also neuromuscular, so sometimes I struggle to even walk, but I still manage to get the training in.
"I now coach, and one of the drivers for being a coach and doing coaching education was that there was nobody around to take me on or give me advice. I didn't want other people in my position to be in that place."
Why triathlon over other sports?
"If my body isn't up for going up for a run - or a shuffle as I call it - I can do still do something. Triathlon gives me that option. I have a swimming background so that wasn't an issue when I started and it's still my best event now, but I like the improvements I can make on the bike and the run as well. I've always been sporty, and I might not have been brilliant, but I always enjoyed doing it."
What’s the one thing you now know, that you wish you’d known before getting started in the sport?
"How enjoyable it is! I grew up watching the sport of triathlon develop. My original triathlon transition rack was a set of deck chairs to lean the bike against instead of the formal rack! It's a very supportive community. Everyone is so positive, and it's positive for me. Even though I come last, way behind others, I was always encouraged to go on and do other events."
What’s been your favourite memory in the sport so far?
"My favourite memory would be the IronMan 70.3 event in North Devon, where I was just a minute inside the cut off but I had my medal given to me by the winner. They'd stayed behind to give the medals to the people at the end of the cut off times. I thought it was great that a professional athlete was still interested in me. I remember they said to me 'you started the same time as me, you finished the same course as me'.
"My favourite competition has to be the IronMan Kalmar in Sweden. I failed it my first time, I was successful the second time, but the course suits me. It's a flattish course, with a lot of wind. Hills in my condition are difficult, so the flat course is great. It definitely taught me a lot about myself doing it and showed what I was capable of, despite my condition."
What's the best thing about triathlon?
"Targets! If I didn't have an event to train for, then I probably wouldn't do as much as I do. Along with triathlon, I do a lot of open water swimming. I've done long, long swims, and doing those events that help me train.
"I love longer distances because they help me mentally as well as physically. I've done the 26km Lake Zurich Marathon Swim in Switzerland, which was amazing."
What’s something only a triathlete would know or appreciate?
"How to push and listen to your body, especially in the longer events. When you're feeling tired or things aren't going the right way, you keep on going. By keeping going, things turn out alright in the end."
What would you say to someone considering trying triathlon?
"Just give it a go! It's your body so it becomes your own race. The support is there and there's a few people I work with who maybe too shy to ask questions, but you do get that support."
Gain an insight into the world of other Paralympic sports by visiting our Spotlight On… series hub page here.
Want to give para triathlon a try? Check out our club finder!