Wet weather failed to dampen spirits at the popular Reason To Children’s Disability Triathlon, sponsored by SOS Group, in Newcastle today (29 September).
Now in its sixth year, the event attracted a record number of competitors and for the first time included a competition for adults with disabilities, too.
In total, 50 participants successfully completed the triathlon, many taking on the challenge for the first time, and they were cheered on by enthusiastic family, friends and volunteers.
Designed to meet the individual abilities of each participant, the Reason To Disability Triathlon provides support and specially adapted equipment to ensure everyone has the opportunity to swim, run and cycle.
As in previous years, the event was held at the David Lloyd Club in Newcastle, who provided additional space when the competition was forced indoors because of heavy rain.
Jo Shallcross, from Ponteland, was inspired to organise a triathlon tailored for North East children and adults with disabilities after seeing a disabled child enjoying an event in Hawaii.
Jo, a coach and director of fitness business, The Barn, jointly organises the triathlon with her friend, Tracey Sample from Triathlon England, who lives in Amble.
Jo says: “The weather’s been a bit of a challenge and we’ve had to look at slightly different ways of doing things but it’s worked very well and the triathletes have just been amazing. They’ve all pushed themselves do the very limit of what they can do.
“The atmosphere has been fantastic and we’ve had adults involved this time as well. They started before the younger competitors but stayed around to cheer them on and they’ve really added to the day.
“I think the main thing our triathletes take away from this event is confidence. I hope that when they leave here, they take that confidence and use it to try more new challenges. To say, you know what, if I can do a triathlon maybe I can do other activities and sports, too.”
The Reason To Disability Triathlon was sponsored, once again, by Team Valley-based copy, print and scan management company, SOS Group, who provided medals and t-shirts for all participants, as well as a video of the day to treasure.
Andrew Skelton, director at SOS Group, says: “We’ve sponsored this event for four years now and that time’s flown by. It’s fantastic to see it getting bigger and bigger every year and to see the young children and older age groups having the opportunity to take part in sports. And this year, for the first time, adults, too.
“As ever, there’s amazing support from family and volunteers and that creates a superb atmosphere. Were very proud to be associated with this event and look forward to watching it grow even further.”
Harry Purdy, aged 14 from Seaton Delaval has an undiagnosed disability which has traits of cerebral palsy, and was inspired to do his first triathlon after his step-mam, Louise Purdy, did her first this year.
Louise says “I did my first triathlon in Ashington recently and Harry said he wanted to try and do one too.
“He’s done six lengths in the pool today with lots of kicking, splashing and smiling for the camera. We couldn’t do the cycling today because of the weather but he did multi-sports instead and he did the running section in his wheelchair. He collected a lot of high fives doing that.
“We’re all very proud of him and he’s really enjoyed the whole day.”
Ellen Stephenson from Newcastle is 15-years-old and has Mosaic Down Syndrome. Two years ago, she began swimming competitively with others who have learning disabilities and is now a member of the Down Syndrome Swimming GB team and has competed in France and Canada.
Her long-term goal is to compete in the Paralympics and this was her first triathlon.
Ellen says: “I really enjoyed today. It was quite hard but I enjoyed meeting new people. It’s inspiring and makes you want to try new things more.”
Her mum, Kathryn Stephenson, says: “Sport has brought so much to Ellen’s life, particularly friendships, fitness and confidence. And the feeling of being valued and achieving despite having a disability.”
For the third time, former Newcastle United striker, Shola Ameobi, was proud to help by presenting medals.
Shola says: “It’s so fantastic to see these kids and young people overcoming their difficulties and all that they go through. Coming out and exercising, and the social aspect, too, and doing all that a healthy boy or girl could do.
“I’m just so inspired by them for stepping out of their comfort zone and to see the support that they get as well. The turn-out today was immense and this year the adults have been able to get involved as well.
“I love the fact this event is growing and that everyone wants to be involved from the youngest kid to the oldest guy. The inclusion of everyone is fantastic.”