Running with his arm in a sling, paratriathlete Barry Davids only took part in the Dambuster triathlon to improve his fitness.
But the 38-year-old, who is partially paralysed in his right arm, came 29th out of 93 competitors in his age category.
And a few days later, he received an email telling him he had qualified for the able bodied GB team competing in Canada in September.
Barry said: “The World Championship qualification came out of the blue, an accident born out of my training plan.
“I entered the Dambuster standard distance triathlon as nothing more than an attempt to build up some endurance as preparation for the paratriathlons.
“I was surprised when I got this email saying you’ve made the team, I thought ‘Oh my God’. I was proud and excited, but then I realised can I go? I need to get flights so I’m trying to find a sponsor.”
Barry injured his arm playing amateur club rugby for the Old Caterhamians RFC, or Old Cats, 14 years ago when he was 24.
Initially he couldn’t move his right arm, having detached some of the nerves supplying the limb.
He said: “They had literally been ripped clean out in the impact of a tackle.”
He had surgery at the National Orthopedic Hospital at Stanmore and three out of five damaged nerves were reattached.
He slowly regained some movement and can now bend at the elbow and grasp with three fingers.
Devastated by the injury, his friends and family signed him up for a 300 mile cycle ride across California ‘to force me out of my depression’, he explained.
At the time, the triathlete’s reaction was ‘Yeah right, as if I could do that’.
“I was negative about everything, finding excuses not to go but they threw me on the back of a tandem, arm in a sling. This training helped me realise I could do things.
“I returned to the gym and to the classes of a fitness instructor who I had always quite fancied, who is now my wife, things were looking up,” he said.
Barry, a dad-of-five who works in systems consulting, now trains mornings, lunches and evenings.
“Sometimes instead of going on a bike ride I’ve got to pick up the children, but I find a way.
“Qualifying was a real achievement.”
The National Para Triathlon Championships are being held in Liverpool today and Barry hopes to take home a gold medal and secure a place in the GB Paralympic team. He is now wrestling with two dilemmas, finding sponsorship and deciding which of the two competitions to focus his training on.
Barry continued: “I think I have an outside shot in Liverpool as I’ve been putting in some good numbers while training and on race day, if things went well, then it would be all to play for. Equally, for the worlds, I really don’t want to be humiliated. The one standard distance race I did, when I qualified, I hit the wall half way through the run. I just wasn’t used to that extra distance. I really don’t want this to happen in Edmonton and put shame to the GB vest I’ll be wearing.”
Barry loses out on having assistance in transition in the able bodied version of the sport, putting him at a disadvantage. “Removing a wetsuit with one arm and putting shoes on is not a quick thing,” he said.
“Even a simple task of clipping up your helmet can take a while with only one hand. In the Dambuster event I lost close to five minutes of time against the top athletes.”
Can you sponsor Barry? email firstname.lastname@example.org