Parolympic Dreams

This is still in developing stage. But.. a new blog I do need…

Sussex has been hiding two world class paratriathletes who are now seeking ultimate recognition on the Olympic stage.

Faye McClelland, 30, and Paul Thomas, 49, both members of Brighton Phoenix Athletics and Triathlon Club, have consistently won medals for Great Britain since taking up the sport in 2008.

The energetic duo have jointly set competing in the Parolympics as their greatest goal. Their future will be decided in December, by the International Paralympic Committee (IPC). The sport is one of seven to be reviewed for inclusion in the 2016 games and only one will be chosen.

McClelland, from Lewes, races under the arm impairment category. After an inspiring season of racing, she was named the World Champion this year, annihilating competition on the international.

Faye took up triathlon seriously after she returned from a travelling expedition, having decided to end her career as a fitness instructor. She called herself “lucky”. Being born with one hand means she has not been forced to adapt to a disability, as she points out other team members have had to do.

Thomas is an ex-army man who lives in Seaford. He has two children, and lectures in Equine Studies at Plumpton College. The college have provided him with a huge amount of support in his sporting career. He suffers from a painful condition which affects the spinal cord, called Cauda Equina. He has gained two bronzes and a gold medal for GB this year.

The condition weakens the strength in his muscles, making some movements painful, and causing him frustration when messages from his brain to his limbs are sometimes ineffective.

The IPC’s decision, if it is made in favour of Paratriathlon, will give the athletes a huge incentive and provide them with much more funding.

“We’re all very passionate and driven in the GB squad anyway, but it would be nice to be recognised at the Olympics, and would mean a lot more funding,” explains Faye. As a student, studying Physiotherapy with Brighton University on the Eastbourne campus, she said she found it a “struggle” to afford to compete in the sport.

Faye said, “triathlon is developing very rapidly, but it is still in the early stages. We (the GB squad) are the guinea pigs for coming generations.”

Still a fairly unrepresented sport, triathlon struggles to bring in large crowds of viewers so funding can be hard. More recognition will bring with it competition which will help the sport build a stronger viewer base.

McClelland explained, “I’ve approached local companies but no one has been able to give me much funding.”

The talented hopefuls have received some help along the way. ‘Wave’ leisure allows them to use their facilities free of charge, and Paul has sponsorship from ‘Leki’ who provide his running poles. Since being selected for the GB squad, Faye now also gains coaching by elite trainer Glen Cook.

The year’s success has brought a surge of confidence for Thomas and McClelland.

It took Thomas eight years to recover from the initial trauma of his diagnosis, but his tenacity and determination now provide an inspiration for other disabled and able bodied athletes. When asked how it felt to race in Great British style, he said simply: “lovely.” Having ridden competitivly before his illness, Paul also plays table tennis nationally and has plans to learn to ski.

After her truly astonishing performance this year, McClelland says she has finally gained self belief.

“I still lack confidence, but the year has shown me I have real potential, which I have yet to reach.”

If the IPC decide in favour of paratriathlon, no doubt she will have every opportunity to achieve far beyond expectation

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