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Jenny’s triathlon triumph enjoyed by all

Sport | Published:

THE power for good that sport can wield was demonstrated in emphatic fashion at a sun-drenched St Catherine’s Bay early on Sunday morning.

Hundreds of people packed the area to organise or support 106 newcomers to the sport of triathlon . . . and they and the competitors succeeded in great style. This was feel-good sport, with several plusses, not least inclusivity.

The third running of the Jersey Triathlon Club’s Try-a-Tri event may have started in less-than-brilliant conditions at 7.30 am, but by the end of a 400m sea swim, 10 km bike ride and 2.5 km run, there were sunshine smiles everywhere – particularly when severely visually-impaired competitor Jenny Stafford came over the line to confirm an inspiring achievement.

First home in the men’s and women’s events were Jim Trédant and Rebecca Thompson – but the morning, in truth, was about 106 success stories.

Said event official Truusje Gamlin: ‘Everyone of the starters finished and that’s what this event is all about. It’s for real novices, for people who don’t feel confident enough to go straight into a triathlon.

‘Most of them have been on a ten-week training programme, with the club putting on about 16 coached sessions for them. A lot of these people are returning to sport, many after a long time out, so it’s really about a personal challenge.

‘Our aim was to get them all through the finish line.

‘There were three main purposes behind it, really. One is to boost membership; two is to contribute to a fit and healthy community – some had never swum in the sea before, but now they can spend the summer on the beach with their children – keeping people active is so important; Three is for charitable reasons. This year we’ve supported the Jersey Sports Association for the Disabled and raised £3,000 for them.

‘This is the first year we have featured disability athletes – and it just goes to show people what can be done.’

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It certainly was a morning for all ages.

David Carter (60), well-known in Island sailing, was all smiles after finishing his first triathlon with this daughter Lydia, saying: ‘I got off to a late start as far as triathlon is concerned . . . but my daughter was interested so she talked me into it. I’ve been doing a bit of running, but you get to a certain age where it’s nice to get a bit of diversity in your training. That’s what’s nice about triathlon, you’re not bashing about doing the same thing all the time.

‘It was good fun. The swim was the hardest for me and I think that’s the same for a lot of people.’

The acid test, of course, is whether you come back for more, and he had no doubts: ‘I’ll do it again, for sure!’ And I’ll be joining the club.’

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The biggest cheers of the day were, not unexpectedly, saved for Jenny Stafford who, despite severe visual impairment, ended the morning in triumph after she and her team of guides successfully made it home via sea, saddle and foot.

She had well-wishers (and the media) lining up to congratulate her, telling the JEP: ‘Wow, I’ve done it! It’s a great feeling of achievement, but I’ve been very lucky with the support I’ve had – and the crowds were amazing.

Asked how she had managed to reach the starting line of a triathlon she explained: ‘The Jersey Triathlon Club’s Sarah [Corcoran] put forward the idea, contacting me as their charity this year is the Jersey Sports Association for the Disabled. I said “great” but I’ll need help with the swim – I’m not much of a swimmer.

‘I’ve had three sea swims, two at Harve des Pas and one at St Catherine’s last Wednesday. It was hard on the way out with the waves – it reminded me of running against the wind on the sea front – but once we turned back it was quite nice really. If I was going too far left or right, my guides would tell me.

‘The bike leg was brilliant! I was with Nathan [Woodland] on the club’s tandem, and he just basically told me when were turning left or right, going up or downhill and when to slow down or speed up, “sharp left” or “sharp right”. He just talked the whole time, telling about the different places were going through.’

Regular running partner Terri O’Donoghue, saw her home over the final 2.5 km run, up and down the breakwater.

So, is she planning another tri?

‘The plan is ... to recover! But I’m always up for a challenge,’ she answered with an ever-widening smile.

Organiser Truusje Gamlin has no doubts she will be back: ‘If my mind was as strong as hers [Jenny] I would achieve amazing things, I’m sure. She is a very strong, determined lady.’

Jenny was guided around by Sarah Corcoran, Vaughan Robinson and Vanesa Averty (swim); Nathan Woodland (bike); and Terri O’Donoghue (run), with the latter one of several unsung heroes helping her out with her running on a regular basis in the lead up to the event.

  • Full results inside Tuesday's JEP

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