Rio De Janeiro test event - by Andy Lewis
On the 28th July 2015 two teams flew out to Rio de Janeiro, in Brazil to participate in the Paralympic test event.
I have to stress that unlike our Olympic team mates, for the Paratriathlon team it was not a qualifying event, but more of a test of the venue and the course etc. For most of us it felt very real.
After boarding an aircraft to the Paralympic venue and with only thirteen months to go before the games begin and possibly only ten months before we find out if we have made the cut) it seemed a very important event indeed. As we boarded the Aircraft to Rio I sat amongst the team, fairly central. Each person as important as the next on this flight, that was made up of previous world champions and people that have been doing this for a lot longer than my 14 months.
We sat awaiting to hear the captain prepare us for take off when I looked down at my phone to see a text message from my wife “Safe flight, Enjoy Rio” she said. It made me realize how lucky I am, not just to have this opportunity but also to have someone who loves me and really empowers what I do everyday. I also received a very welcome email explaining to me that a potential main sponsor (Fieldfisher) had come through with a contract and that they were willing to back me for the next 12 months.
I was so pleased, I know these people are willing me to do well and I will wear my Tri Suit with pride, not just because it represents my country but also a great company who believe in me and my journey.
On arriving in Rio we were taken to a great hotel right in the centre of the venue on Copacabana, the view was incredible and I was very excited to be there.
We spent the next few days swimming and just taking in the atmosphere, all in preparation for the big day.
The morning of the race was nearly upon us and we had done everything as a team we possibly could to ensure we were all in the best shape for this race. The sea looked good and the sun was shining, it was very humid but nonetheless we were ready to race. The recognisable triathlon blue carpet was out and all our equipment was racked, we were ready.
After a short delay we were led out of the athletes lounge. This is an area where we are asked to chill out and wait to be called for our introduction. It always gets me that bit, the commentator mentions my name “representing Great Britain, Andy Lewis” and it never seems real, like there will be a moment where I wake up. Once we have finished the intros we are asked to make our way to the pontoon which was floating about 200m out to sea.
We had a choice to either swim out or catch a small boat. I decided to swim to get used to the water and also warm up. We all lined up at the pontoon and were asked to take our marks, the horn went and we were off, the first ever Paratri event, in Rio of all places.
It was a large group of athletes as the PT2/4/3 male and females all went off together and I got battered in the first 25 meters but I wasn’t going to get battered for long as I made my way out of the pack and started to pick up speed. After a fast 250m I got into my groove and swam to get past the first buoy. My plan was to then use the current and the waves to get me back to shore as fast as possible and I did it. I was first out of the water in my category and now it was onto the bike.
I had a few issues in T1(transition 1) and lost some time, however as soon as I made my way onto the course I pushed as hard as I could to ensure I made up that time. Eventually I was passed by the current world champion and eventually ended up in third place. The bike course was fast and flat with lots of technical dead turns.
As I approached T2 I could see the guy in front of me, Mark Barr, just leaving, I knew I would have to work really hard to catch him, as he’s a good runner. Also just leaving T2 was our GB PT4 girl Faye McClelland, I used her as a marker and stayed with her for the first lap, slowly gaining on Mark. I could see him in front so I went for it, maybe a little early but it was now or never. As I made my way on the last 400m I was gaining as he had some issues with his leg.
I went for it pushing myself to the limit, the heat had really taken a grip on me as I had not used the water stations as effectively as I previously had in other races so was really burning up. I finished in 3rd place, 13secs behind him but I learnt some valuable lessons from this race and improved my processes to deal with things but now I am hungry for a Gold medal as we leave for Detroit.