From cross-country to paratri, via boxing… We speak to Britain’s Andy Lewis
Andy Lewis, 32, started his tri career just last year as a member of Triathlon England’s talent squad before graduating into the GB paratriathlon squad.
A former cross country runner for Gloucestershire and a boxing coach for three years, Andy recently won bronze in the PT2 category (see classifications below) at the Madrid ITU World Paratriathlon Event.
How does the set-up in Loughborough work with you?
I currently attend Loughbourgh five days a week and it works quite well. It’s great to be around the team and have access to the coaches and experts to ensure I get what I need.
How important is the Hub to you?
It’s so important to have this facility. For me, I’m very motivated but I find training at the hub pushes me even further.
What would qualifying for the Paralympics mean to you?
I, along with many others, have made massive sacrifices – giving up my job, leaving my home and family (wife and two children) at home, so qualifying would mean the world to us.
It’s a hard hill to climb and I’m currently at the bottom making my way through the trees. We have to remember that I only started triathlon one year ago so getting points and on starts lists now is the most important thing for me.
With no precedent for tri in the Paralympics, how are you approaching this huge race target?
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Taking every day one step at a time, really. I don’t know what to expect to be honest, some of the guys have been to the Paralympics before but for me it’s such a big thing. I just can’t focus on it right now as there are so many things that need resolving first.
What’s your main goal this year?
For me it will be to improve all aspects of my performance taking each one very seriously. My main goal this year is to qualify for the Worlds and Europeans, but the PT2 cat is so new that we’re currently chasing points to make this happen. We (me and Ryan Taylor) can only do our best and hope that we get GB points.
Do you have a nemesis in your category?
For me, every competitor deserves respect to be competing at that level with a disability. But when the horn goes on race day, it’s just me, my bike and my blade.
What would you say are your biggest strengths and weaknesses in paratri?
I’m very focused on what I want. I’m a big team player but my strengths lie in my planning and motivation. I’ve made massive gains in the swim.
My weakness is possibly worrying about things I can’t control. However with the support of Steve Casson my coach I can refocus my energy very quickly.
How much does your disability affect you in training?
Due to me using my good leg a lot it becomes very tired and has to be managed very carefully. But I also suffer quite badly with sores on my stumps.
I don’t get funding or sponsorship for my prosthetics so when this happens I need to spend a lot of time getting it right.
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How do you balance family, work and training?
This is the hardest thing for me to manage, as I find leaving my family at times of need really difficult. My wife has been so strong with me but trying to explain to a one-year-old that daddy has to go away is hard.
I gave up my job to become a full-time athlete (something I never thought I could say), so my family know why I’m doing it. But as a dad, sometimes I wish I could do normal dad things, it’s just hard to fit it all in.
Who or what inspires you most on a bad training day?
Hard one that. I would say when I’m in Loughbourgh and I’m not having a bad day, Joe Townsend. We get along really well and he always makes me laugh.
But when I’m at home it’s my wife and kids. Coming home after a bad day and seeing their faces always makes me smile.
Paralympic category classifications
PT1 Wheelchair users. Athletes use a recumbent handcycle on the bike course and a racing wheelchair on the run segment.
PT2 Athletes with comparable activity limitation and an impairment of, but not limited to, limb deficiency, hypertonia, ataxia and/or athethosis, impaired muscle power or range of movement. In both bike and run segments, amputee athletes may use approved prosthesis or other supportive devices.
PT4 As above but with less severe impairment.
PT5 Total or partial visual impairment, competes with a guide.