James Beckinsale is the head coach of the London Regional Academy and was involved in a dramatic car fire rescue when returning to London from the New Forest.
“As we got closer to the car, we could see a lady getting her kids out of the car,” Beckinsale commented. “As I passed the car I saw flames dropping out of the engine block onto the floor and I pulled up in front of the car and said to my wife, “we’ve got to help her”.
“My wife called the fire-brigade and then as I got out of the van, I was thinking to myself this is like a scene from a film and how do I get to this lady and her three children without me dying, either being hit by the cars on the motorway or if the engine blows up.
“I ran round, grabbed the lady’s smallest baby and said that she had to move away, and within moments the whole car was up in flames.”
“A van driver pulled up and we hid the lady and her children behind the van, but as we did this, the bushes on the side of the motorway started to catch fire as well and the wind was blowing the fire towards us and this chap’s van.”
Whilst Beckinsale was comforting the lady and her children, Highway Patrol had arrived, stopping the traffic on the motorway, and within about five minutes of his wife’s call, the fire brigade were on the scene to put the fire out.
“We got the lady to safety and everything was ok, it was pretty hairy, but everyone was safe at the end of the day.”
Beckinsale has been head coach of the regional academy since 2009 which, like all sporting groups over the last year or so, has moved online to allow athletes to stay connected.
“It’s quite a strange time because we lost a lot of the older juniors in September last year, going off to university etc,” Beckinsale said. “We’ve had a new people interested in being part of the academy but I’ve not met them because we’ve not had live sessions.
“It’s predominantly word of mouth [that attracts people to seek to be part of the academy]. Ideally, we’d like to get young people from swim clubs so that they have that swim knowledge but obviously swim clubs want to keep hold of them.
“Maybe it’s one of those ways that we can stop the drop out from swimming which is huge, and especially from girls in swimming.
“In September, it’ll be the first time in the last couple of years that we’ll do a selection. A bit of a time trial swim and run, and few other bits and pieces. If people are interested, the doors are open and we’re welcoming anyone who wants to come. It’s the mindset of wanting to get better that matters.”
Anyone with young athletes who are wanting to get involved and improve their triathlon ability can contact Beckinsale to find out more about how to get involved. Email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 07956166989.
The academy coaches have run Zwift rides, online cooking and online strength and conditioning sessions to continue supporting the young athletes, however they hadn’t been able to get together until early-May this year.
“We normally do a warm weather training camp in Spain and that was literally the last thing we did last year before lockdown,” added Beckinsale.
“To get back together was really good and the guys loved it. We started off with transition practice; firstly with helmet races, then helmets and shoes, and then into mount and dismount, then into full T1 but without the swim.
“We also T2 in small groups building the pressure and the size of the group, then went onto group riding bike etiquette, signals and how to ride in a group safely. It was sucking eggs for some but really important for the new guys and girls.
“The most impressive part was how much some of the youth and juniors had grown because a year is a long time.”
On top of his role with the academy, Beckinsale is also coach at Optima Racing Team, a British Triathlon Affiliated Club.
Clubs like Optima are a great way to get more involved with swim, bike, run, and provide opportunities for both juniors and seniors to hone their skills and connect with other triathletes. Find a club near you using the search below.