John Breitenbach Of The Bristol Post Writes About Andy Lewis' Amazing European Victory
Andy Lewis has high hopes of competing at this summer's Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, after he took gold at the European Paratriathlete Championships in Lisbon.
It was a remarkable achievement by the Gloucestershire-born man, who must have wondered whether he would ever walk again, let alone represent his country in a sport which requires a gruelling combination of cycling, swimming and running.
Lewis sought to represent his country through other means as a teenager, targeting a career with the paramilitary (parachute regiment) before a horrific motorbike accident in Bristol left him with limited use of his right leg at the age of just 16. Eventually, Lewis' leg was amputated in 2005.
For many, suffering such a debilitating injury at such a tender age would leave them permanently traumatised. For Lewis, his greatest challenge in life has spurred his most impressive achievements.
Even after losing his leg, Lewis retained his passion for flying. Flying through the air with nothing but a big sheet to keep him aloft might have become unrealistic, but Lewis could still handle the plane itself. He was awarded a disabled flying scholarship, which helped him earn his pilot's license. Lewis then received an invitation to fly across the UK in the Dawn till Dusk aeronautical challenge, raising nearly £40,000 for charity in the process.
His second passion as a youth was long-distance running. That lingered too. British success in the 2012 Paralympic Games was the final motivator, convincing Lewis to target a role as a national athlete.
Success came almost instantly. Lewis started with victories in the British paratriathlon and paraduathlon championships. Unsatisfied with local success, he turned his attention toward global competitions. In Lewis' first taste of the European Championships in Geneva (2015, PT2 classification) he earned a respectable fourth-placed finish.
A man as determined as Lewis was unlikely to rest on his laurels, however, and he was hoping to improve at the Euro Championships in Lisbon a week ago. He ran his best race yet. Lewis topped the podium, beating Stephanie Bahier (France) and Michele Ferrarin (Italy) – who had finished ahead of him in 2015 – performing particularly well in the swimming portion of the event. Running remains his strong suit, but improvements in the other disciplines were necessary to win his first major tournament.
The future appears bright for Lewis. The dream to compete, and win, Paralympic gold is very much a possibility. His outstanding form is reason for optimism, and he looks to have a great chance of making the GB squad for Rio, when it is announced later this month. The timing for Lewis seems perfect. Triathlon has just been admitted to the Paralympics in time for the Games in Rio in September. He also has experience competing in the city, back in 2015. All the signs are positive as Lewis hurtles toward the biggest stage of all.
Any is grateful for the sponsorship support he receives from Fieldfisher, a London based law firm.
This article was first published by John Breitenbach in the Bristol Post