Only now has the last five years of work paid off….

A good couple of years ago I was asked why I don’t do any Paraplegic sports and my answer was simply ‘I’m happy & fat, why would I want to live such a boring life dedicating my time to training. Life is here to be enjoyed! That’s what I’m doing.’.

Looking back, I wish I could travel back to the 20 year old Stan and give him a smack and show him how much more enjoyable life can be.

I always believed that our National para athletes were born into sport, had wealthy families and loads of money from Government for their achievements. Only now do I realise just how wrong I was. Only now do I realise all the blood, sweat, tears and ridiculous hours of training that goes into becoming a national elite athlete. Only now has the last five years of work paid off…

A few weeks ago I received an email from TSA (Triathlon South Africa) to congratulate me on my Senior Protea colours in Triathlon! Amazeballs!
What an honour to receive an accolade like this. This for the same guy who a few years back had skew priorities towards partying, maintaining an exorbitant waistline and keeping my couch warm.

Up until now there have been many hours, many frustrations, many tears, loads of travelling, tons of learning and racing under pressure… all for this. It’s most definitely worth it!

Thank you to all my supporters, who most days inspire me just as much as they claim I inspire them. Thank you to the awesome sponsors who believe in me, it is highly appreciated. To my close friends and family, thank you for putting up with my moods and moaning.
Of course a huge thank you to my wife Melissa who makes it all work and my two beautiful daughters, Olivia and Hannah who often miss daddy due to training, travelling and racing. I love you 3!

I can honestly say this is by far my best personal achievement ever.

I look forward to the next season of Triathlon and promise to hold the SA name high.

Grand Final World Championships – Rotterdam

The Grand Final Championships was to be held in Rotterdam again this year. I was here last year for the world champs although I came stone last as I accidentally did an extra 4km’s on the bike route.
I was not going to do that again this year. I even went as far as placing 4 x pieces of tape onto my handlebars to ensure that I do the correct amount of laps.
I decided after last years race to also bring along my road bike and not my Tri-bike as the course was technical with not many long stretches. In total there was just over a hundred turns within the 20km cycle. And to top it all off, it had been raining all week and race day didn’t present a glimmer of possible sunshine either.

Rotterdam is a very clean and beautiful city with decent respect for bicycles and cyclists in general.
With the weather being as gloomy as what it was, I was only able to fit in one ride a few days before the race and a swim in the local pool. Race briefing brought about the knowledge that there was the possibility of the swim being cancelled and the event becoming a duathlon. I was praying and holding thumbs that this would not happen as I would then be out of contention for any podium. I also gave the swim course familiarization a skip due to really hard rain. Injury during course familiarization would have put my race at risk.

Race day arrived and the weather, although wet and overcast had played its part in allowing the swim to go on. We all lined up in our respective categories as our names were called out in introduction. It was go time.
Onto the pontoon, then into the water for a wet start. 3-2-1- GO!

As I pushed forward to get myself ahead in the swim, I must have done something wrong because I very quickly found myself at someone’s feet. Before I knew it, my goggles were kicked off with a solid foot to the face. I paused and looked around to see if I could see them but no luck! Dammit man! I couldn’t let this stop me, I had come too far for this so I stuck my face into the water and threw my arms forward.
Swimming without goggles is not a fine art or anything special, Its just something that very few people train for – myself included. I gave it what I could and feared that I had dropped to last although upon entering transition, I soon realized that I was not last.
I grabbed my bike, ran out and mounted it in such a professional manner it was good enough to feature in a triathlon magazine. Cycle leg clipped in, toes into shoe and then the strap came loose. I don’t even know how this was possible but somewhere in loading my bike into T1 earlier, I must have pulled the strap out of my shoe – Disaster number 2!

Gave the cycle everything I could with the loose shoe. In hindsight, it would have been way better had I stopped, corrected the mistake and continued – lessons learnt!
Off the bike and onto my run. I knew that I hadn’t given enough to be in line for a podium although I decided to appreciate the fact that I was representing my country as the only Elite para triathlete at the Grand final! I ran with as much rhythm and comfort as possible. Had my fastest run to date which was a really great feeling.
Finishing strong in what I thought wasn’t a great race, I ended up placing 9th overall. I’m very happy with that!

Being able to represent my country on a world championship level is something that makes me extremely proud. It is what makes all the early morning training sessions worth it. It was also made super awesome because I was fortunate enough to be able to have my beautiful wife Melissa and my two gorgeous Daughters there to share the moment with me!
I take away a few lessons learnt from this year of racing as well as a great achievement. Top ten in the world!

Perhaps a possibility of a national award once I return home, who knows…watch this space!

Iseo Italy 3-8 July

Following on from the race in Spain, I traveled with the team to our next stop – Iseo Italy. WOW, what a place of beauty!
Lake Iseo is beautiful with the Monte Isola Island accessible by ferry. I was fortunate to be able to run the circumference of the island one of the days as a gentle spin of the legs.

Being on a high from my race in Spain, I had every intention of pushing for a podium finish. I was tuned and ready to go.
Race day was going to be held in the afternoon which is something that does not happen often with swim and bike course familiarization happening in the morning of race day.
Prepped and ready to go, I chose to wear a wetsuit in the wetsuit optional format. It was hot but I wanted the extra buoyancy.

Had a superb swim, exiting the water in 2nd place. Into pre-transition, cycle leg on and off to T1.
Then it happened….
My leg snapped! I almost fell but managed to keep upright. I actually thought I had stepped into a hole. In transition I looked down and assessed the damage. It was broken although it seemed still usable. I was upset, frustrated and disappointed all in one at that moment as I could see the race falling apart from there. Despite these feelings I told myself to never give up and got onto my bike.

Cycling with literally one leg was not what I have ever trained for! Through the several laps of the cycle course I could see how I was simply losing positions. I kept going even with my stump now throbbing from the pain.
Back into transition and I had to make the call – Do I pull out? I just couldn’t. I couldn’t face a DNF (Did Not Finish). In pain and determined I put my running leg on and headed out. I cannot deny it, it was excruciatingly painful. Disaster of a run on top of such bad luck, I ended 10th out of the 14 athletes. Although not ideal, I’m proud to have finished and more than that, didn’t finish last.

So not the result I was looking for although I did have a great race last week in Spain so this was just one of those things.
Our host Guiseppe treated us all to pizza’s at his favorite local spot where my teammate Rowan Kennedy tried to convince the chef to add bacon and banana to the menu of standard options of pizza’s.

What a great trip although I was looking forward to making my way back home. Thank you Iseo – I will be back in 2018 to make my mark!

Altufulla Spain 27 June – 2 July

After a somewhat disappointing race in Yokohama, I was determined to set things straight in Spain. The para triathlon would be held in Altafulla, Spain. Along the coast, the weather was predicted to be hot and dry.
Travelling for an International sport is always a draining activity as we most often have to utilise the cheapest airfare which often means multiple lay overs with a definite stop at Dubai International. Luckily for me, this is also one of the few airports that have a separate ‘disabled’ lounge.

Arriving in Spain alongside my teammates, we opted to stay in an Airbnb option which proved to be the right choice as it was conveniently located close to the Triathlon start/finish.
With a beautiful view and an everlasting coastline, we built our bikes and got onto the road for a test ride followed by a gentle run to loosen up the traveled muscles.

The race itself would take place on the Saturday. The 750 meter swim would be an ocean swim in what seemed to be quite a flat part of the sea. Short stretch to transition and then onto the flat, fast, out and back cycle course. The tough part would be the run due to the high temperatures.
All went as planned. Had a great swim, solid bike and my second fastest 5km run which was thank to the Italian that was constantly on my tail. Coming into the last kilometer of the run I threw down the hammer and accelerated with everything that I had left in me to secure a solid 5th place, five seconds ahead of the Italian.

Overall – really happy with my performance. Was great to be pushed a little out of my comfort zone. Next up – Iseo Italy next weekend.

WTS – Yokohama

In Dubai I had to bid farewell to my fellow teammates as I was travelling alone to Yokohama to represent SA in the WPS event.
After another long flight I landed at Narita airport, Japan where I was met with the not so good news of my bike box being left in Dubai – Thanks Emirates.

At least I would have my luggage bag. The unfortunate thing is that my running leg was in my bike box so no cycling or running until the bike arrived. This led to me learning a little more about the Japanese culture as I signed up at the local gym to get some swimming in, I was told that I would have to cover my tattoo.

Nevertheless, this event would allow me to also have a new official classification done which confirmed that I will remain in the PTS4 category. The ITU(International Triathlon Union) are doing an amazing job in ensuring the categories are fair, as equal as can be and monitored to ensure competitiveness.

 

My bike box finally arrived on the Thursday morning. I can’t remember if I have ever been that excited to see a big Grey box before. Bike build happened immediately in the passage outside my room. Out I went for a short ride only to discover that my ‘BB’ was operating with some resistance. Found a bike shop and they couldn’t look at it due to not having the correct tools – can you believe it! I was going to have to race like that.

Friday at bike course familiarization, my bike seemed to operate normally. We did two laps of the bike course. It was technical with a number of 90º turns and three 180º turns. There would be four laps in total. Rain was predicted for Saturday which is something that us South Africans don’t always get to train in.
Oh well, whatever the conditions, it would be the same for all of us.

Race day arrived and as predicted, rain from 4a.m. I have never raced in weather where it has rained from before the race until after the end. Into the swim and felt good. Exited the water in a tied 3rd place . New leg system worked very well and onto the bike I went. Whether it was something in my head or the weather or the ‘BB’, something just didn’t gel. I dropped 4 positions in the bike into 7th unfortunately. The run went better than expected although it wasn’t enough to regain a better position.

1:12:42 in an International event and in the rain, I’ll take 7th and another PB anyday!

Post race random drug test (always fun), transition collection, back to the hotel to shower and pack my bags. Leaving to the airport a few hours later to be back home by Mother’s Day the next day. Welcomed home by my two Princesses. It was a great 2 weeks of racing although there really is no place like home.

African Championships – Tunisia

What a race, where do I even begin..


Defending my title of African Champion was certainly something that came with a bit of pressure. Held in Yasmin Hammamet, Tunisia meant that not only would I be traveling, I would also most likely be racing in hot conditions.

I have trained solid for the last 3 months and was ready for whatever I had to throw down on the day.

Traveling with my fellow para triathlete team members, some juniors, U23 and able body elite athletes. The flights were good and soon we were all in Tunisia. Upon arrival we all quickly learnt the concept of ‘Africa time’. After what seemed like forever, the bus eventually arrived and we all piled in along with the Team from Zimbabwe.

Arriving at the hotel about 90 mins later, some athletes had the unfortunate fate of having their bags ‘lost’ somewhere between South Africa and Tunisia. This would prove to be very stressful for them over the next few days.

Doing a few runs and of course the route familiarization, it became apparent that it was going to be a flat fast race. I was going to have to be on top form to retain my title. The sea was calm but extremely salty.

The morning of the race arrived and as I loaded my bike and accessories into transition, I was reminded once again of just how far I have actually come over the last four years. I got goosebumps realizing again that I am in fact representing my country on a continental platform and irrespective of win or lose, I should appreciate the fact that through sheer determination and many many hours of training I have got to this level.
On the beach, moments before the start, everyone shaking hands and wishing each other good luck, I made myself a promise that I would push as much as I had to to make sure I get the win.

The swim went okay although my goggles kept leaking. Not being able to see at all, I had to stop several times to empty my goggles. Nevertheless, I got out of the water in second position and was assisted into pre transition to get my leg on. Into transition, helmet on, grab bike and run.
I was first onto the route. I knew things were going to be good. I would allow the tandem of David Jones and Guide Rohan Kennedy to catch me as they are 4 legs against one.

Off the bike, in overall second position but still first in the PTS4 category. Bike racked, shoe on, legs swapped, helmet off and out of there into the run in 40 seconds flat! What an awesome transition!

On the run I wanted to push for a PB so I went out on a tempo with intention to increase as I went along. That’s exactly what I did and the efforts paid off. Missed the PB on the run by 10 seconds but posted an overall race PB by more than 3 minutes!

Really happy with my performance and being able to retain the title of fastest para triathlete in Africa!
Thank you again to all the supporters, followers and believers. Most of all, thank you to my beautiful wife and kids for all their patience.

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