Special athletes humbling

By Dana Stetson

The triathletes I met at the ITU World Triathlon Championship in Edmonton, Canada were all incredible athletes. They had to be, since you had to qualify to be there. But, the group that I really got to know best, the PC(physically challenged) triathletes, were the group whose members absolutely humbled me.

The effort and single-mindedness required for them to train for this race was unbelievable. I attended a pre-race meeting for this group and got to meet most of them. There were about 30 PC athletes in this race. They had many different conditions. There were PC athletes with progressive neurological conditions; there were all types of amputees; there were stroke survivors; and of course, there were blind triathletes.

The PC wave went off first on race day and had a thirty-minute “cushion” before the next wave started. David Bigoney had trained and planned for this race for over five months. It was supposed to be at least a three-way race for the blind triathlete championship of the world. Unfortunately, the blind triathlete from Canada became seriously ill after arriving at the race. This left the French contestant, at the time an unknown, the lone opponent.

At the opening parade, David and I tracked down this French guy and his guide. They appeared, at the time, to be little and unassuming. This later turned out to be so, so wrong. The swim start at this race seemed to me typical and much like many races.

Then, I got a stump in the face. No, this race was definitely going to be different. The swim was held in a lake that must have been really nasty at one time. You could assume this because every local who heard the name of the lake, responded with utter disbelief that anyone would enter this water and walk out undiseased.

The truth was, the water was not too bad. In fact, the lake was chlorinated for this event, (sorry fish), and the water temperature was a decent 70 degrees. David and I finished the swim slightly behind the French triathlete. This was the moment when pre-conceived notions ran into rotten reality!

These French guys were great bikers and pretty good runners. Despite being smoked like a pepperoni by the French triathlete, David Bigoney should be congratulated for an amazing effort.

In his sixth triathlon, at the World Championship, he showed considerable improvement in all areas of this sport and he also demonstrated considerable poise while suffering massive mechanical entropy periodically during the race. There’s no doubt he will be back, maybe even to challenge this fabulous French duo again, Por quois?