TEEN athlete Matthew Fearn mixed it with the best in the world as he took part in the World Duathlon Championships – thanks to the timely and generous intervention of city businesses.
Roker lad Matthew, a former Monkwearmouth School pupil, told the Echo earlier this year how he may not have been able to afford to take part because of the costs involved in getting to the event in Pontevedra, north west Spain.
But, thanks to the help of a Sunderland nutrition business as well as a plumbing firm, he was able to realise his dream and battle it out on the continent.
“After the story went in the Echo to say I was going to Spain, I got a call from Optimal State who are based in Sunderland,” said Matthew, a member of the Coalfields Race Team and trains at Washington Leisure Centre.
“They’ve given me some products to try out and some money as well which went towards the flights and accommodation when I was over there.
“Wearside Plumbing have also given me financial help too.
“It’s helped me a lot and I’m really grateful.”
Matthew finished a respectable 21st in his age group, even though he was battling it out against some participants who are five years older than him.
The event consists of a 5k run, then a bike ride of more than 20k, before a final running leg.
Matthew admitted the trip was “hectic, but great”.
The student, who is taking a year out from studying physiotherapy at Queen Margaret University, in Edinburgh, said: “There were about 40 people in my age range but hundreds of people of all ages in my wave when we set off.
“It was such a good experience to be out there and race with the best in the world.
“And to compete in the GB kit was a fantastic feeling.
“Even though it was in Spain, it was quite cold when we set off on the run at about 8.30am. But then it got very hot and sunny for the bike section which made things a lot harder.”
Matthew, who was cheered on by parents Paul and Tracey as he crossed the finish line in a more than respectable time of one hour three minutes, added: “Maybe I could’ve been faster but I’m happy with the time and I’m sure it’s something I can improve on.”
And despite only just getting back home, Matthew already has his sights firmly set on 2015’s European Duathlon Championships, for which he has been selected.
“The location hasn’t been announced yet, but it’s great that I know I’ve already got my place even though some of the qualifiers aren’t until October.”