All it needed was some Coldplay music and the atmosphere would have been complete – if anyone doubted the legacy of the Paralympics they should have been at Chesham Leisure Centre for the UK’s first Junior Para Triathlon.
A field of 26 disabled youngsters ranging in age from six to 18 took part in the event, which began with a swim in the 25 metre pool followed by a cycle around an expertly laid out course and then a run around the perimeter of the grounds.
The event has been hailed as a spectacular success.
As 16-year-old Pete Harding who had set off at 6.30am from his home in Surbiton, explained: “I have never ever swum eight lengths before let alone in front of all those spectators, but it was a fantastic feeling!”
Pete was a talented sportsman before an accident in 2012 left him brain damaged and no longer able to compete in able bodied events.
“This is just such a fabulous opportunity for children with disabilities to compete knowing there is no pressure and they can just enjoy the thrill of taking part,” said his mum Celia, as she watched him set off still dripping wet to cycle the 3,000m loop which was the designated distance for his age group.
The whole event was the brainchild of Matt Kirby, who together with over 20 volunteers including several from the Chiltern Triathlon Club ensured the day went off without a hitch.
“As an avid sports lover I wanted to give the opportunity of taking part to all youngsters,” he said.
Medals were presented by Paralympic swimming champion Clare Cunningham, who took time off training for Rio 2016 to come along.
Karen Roberts, whose 16-year-old daughter Evelyn had only recently come out of plaster on her left leg, said: “Evelyn was born with cerebral palsy and we have been looking everywhere for a local running club which welcomes youngsters with disabilities”
She soon got talking to 16-year-old fellow cerebral palsy competitor Sam Harris from Berkhamsted, also 16, who joked that together they would make a great team. He said: “I struggle to cycle and Evelyn struggles to run so we’d do better as a relay!”
The event was funded by the Arctic One Foundation charity, set up by Matt last year to encourage sport for all youngsters, able bodied and disabled, and to help fight cancer through sport.
They now plan to make this JuniorPara Triathlon an annual event. Find out more at www.arctic1.co.uk