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Diving into the deep end to take on triathlon


Up until seven years ago, Wanda Stockdale was unable to swim, now she’s preparing to take on her first triathlon in 2022 having already completed aquathlons with Sun City Tri Club.

Day-to-day, Stockdale, who lives with severe asthma and is nebuliser dependent, has arthritis and neuropathy and uses a walking stick for support. It was after a recommendation from her physio that saw the 47-year-old fall in love with the swimming element of swim, bike, run.

“I started to have some problems with my back and a few problems with neuropathy and arthritis, so my physio suggested I took up swimming and at that point I couldn’t swim at all,” Stockdale said. “So, at 40-years-old, I had my first swimming lesson and just fell in love with swimming.

“I started doing open water swimming down at the local beach which then brought me into contact with Sun City and it just went from there. I joined the club, started doing swim training with them, and became involved in marshalling at events and took part in aquathlons.”

After enjoying the “amazing feeling of freedom” when swimming, Stockdale, decided to go one step further and took part in a multisport event for the first time.

“I thought if everyone else is doing it, I’m going to give it a go,” Stockdale said. “The club that I’m with has been so supportive. When I’ve done aquathlons they know I can’t run it, I have to walk, but they encourage me and support me all the way.

“It doesn’t matter if I take 10 minutes, 20 minutes, half-an-hour longer than other people, it’s taking part and achieving it that matters. It’s just pushing myself that little bit further and if you’ve got people out on the course supporting you, encouraging you. It just gives you that little bit of momentum to keep going.”

Stockdale’s latest challenge was in October when she completed a 300m swim and 2km walk having also previously done an aquathlon over the same distance and a longer one which consisted of a 400m swim and 5km walk.

Asked about what she enjoys most about involved in the swim, bike, run community, Stockdale’s answer was immediate – “it’s the people”.

“Being part of a wider community and the support and the encouragement that you get from everyone is fantastic and it really pushes you on,” Stockdale added.

“It’s given me a purpose, it’s given me a focus, it’s given me something positive that I can do, and it means that I’m not always focusing on the difficulties that I face day-to-day, how much pain I’m in, how tired I might be. It shows what I can do, rather than what I can’t do.

“I don’t want to be limited by what I think I can do or what I think I can’t do. I want to keep pushing myself and seeing how much I can do.”

Stockdale is doing exactly that having signed up to take part in her first triathlon next year at the Superhero Tri event in Windsor.

“It’s something I’ve wanted to do for a couple of years, so I’m really looking forward to being part of the event, especially because the whole ethos of the event is celebrating what you can do and not what you can’t do, and celebrating your ability, rather than your disability.

“At the minute, I’m concentrating more on the swimming element and the walking, and then I will add in the bike in the early new year. My club have been amazing, I’m getting support in any way I need it really. They’ve given a lot of encouragement and support and help with my training.

“They accept me for who I am and how I am, and they are willing to make adaptions for that, but they don’t treat me differently, they treat me just like everybody else.”

Having taken-up swimming as a way to keep active, Stockdale “never imagined for one minute it would take me on such an amazing journey”.

“I just thought I would learn to swim. I could never have dreamed of where it would take me,” she added. “I dread to think where I would be [if she hadn’t taken-up swimming]. I would have missed out on so many amazing opportunities and missed out on meeting so many amazing people as well.

“It’s been massively life-changing. It’s given me something positive I can do, something that I can focus on. It’s given me something where I’ve got a real strength.”

You can find out more about paratriathlon and taking up the sport by visiting the British Triathlon website on the link below.



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