Transitions are often talked about when racing in triathlon, but the biggest transition for 16-year-old Ronnie Robinson came before getting to the triathlon course.
A multiple national champion in para show jumping, Robinson wanted a new challenge and decided to make the jump from show jumping to triathlon to see what opportunities were available in swim, bike, run.
“I was looking for something to do in my spare time, something to enjoy,” Robinson said. “I thought about what I could do and then one day I thought triathlon would be a good challenge; something that was new to me and something that was different to horse riding, and I would have to push myself.
“I also liked the fact it would allow me to combine three sports, and I always enjoyed running at school. I was also interested in cycling and now I’m also learning how to swim properly, so I’ve been trying to focus on that and it’s all coming together.”
Robinson was diagnosed with primary congenital glaucoma at six-months-old, causing no vision in his right eye and 2cm of vision in his left eye.
“Every day you have to kind of rely on other people,” Robinson said. “As much as you want to be independent, you have to create routines and familiarise yourself with your environment, so around home I know where everything is, I know the layout, but going to new places is a challenge and you do need people to help you.”
After speaking to Alasdair Donaldson, British Triathlon Paralympic Pathway Manager, about the opportunities available in paratriathlon, Robinson set out on his journey in the sport three years ago.
Initially, his training involved running and cycling on the roads around the village where he lives, near King’s Lynn, with his mum following him in the car. He now trains alone on familiar running routes, goes on bike rides with his sisters or uses his home running machine.
Racing has been a new experience for Robinson in 2021 with the School Games National Finals in Loughborough his first triathlon, before then lining-up on the start line at the British Paratriathlon Super Sprint Championships at Mallory Park in September.
“It’s all been a really good learning experience this year,” Robinson commented. “I had different guides at both events, but I think it went quite well. We’re all learning and helping each other as much as we can.
“The guides are such an important part and without them I wouldn’t be able to compete. As a visually impaired athlete, I rely on them heavily but good communication from both of us is really important.
“At the School Games I only met Ollie [his guide] the day before so we only had a day to prepare, so we used the time to discuss how we were going to do things. We had a training session in the pool so we tested how we were going to go around the corners in the pool and he would pull the tether to signify that I needed to turn.
“On the bike and run, it was a case of communicating about any potholes or branches, and also push each other harder.”
Whether it’s challenging himself across the three disciplines or the support of the wider swim, bike, run community, Robinson is enjoying being part of the sport and continuing to develop.
“Sport has definitely given me more independent and has helped me make new friends and allowed me to meet lots of new people, something I probably wouldn’t be able to do if it wasn’t for sport.
“It’s a challenge, you’ve got to push yourself, you can’t just give up. My club [King’s Lynn Triathlon Club] have been really helpful and there’s always people there happy to help. It’s very enjoyable, we all enjoy sport and I’ve enjoyed getting to know new people.
“I just want to inspire people to get out there, there’s so much you can do, so many different ways to push yourself and you can meet so many amazing people by doing it.”
Still only age 16, Robinson’s long-term goal is to represent Great Britain at a Paralympic Games and, earlier this year, he took his first step onto the performance pathway after being accepted onto the Triathlon England Academy Confirmation programme.
“I had to work hard to get good times for the time-trial, but it was definitely all worth it,” Robinson said. “I’m just going to keep learning and listening to all the advice and guidance I receive from coaches.
“The big thing for me is just to keep on improving and learning and hopefully find a more permanent guide or find more people to be a guide. My main thing for 2022 is to get out there and race more. Longer term, of course, going to a Paralympic Games would be amazing.”
Robinson has received support from Charlotte’s Tandems, a charity that lends tandems to disabled people, and his family are now currently fundraising to get a tandem of his own.
You can find out more about paratriathlon and taking up the sport by visiting the British Triathlon website on the link below.