SUNDERLAND triathlete Elliot Gowland fulfils a personal dream today when he flies to Hawaii to take part in the most famous competition in his sport.
The 39-year-old from Herrington Burn is one of 1,800 competitors worldwide who will take part in the Ironman World Championships – which is to triathlons what Wimbledon is to tennis.
“It’s the most prestigious event in the sport because it was the first and remains the most famous,” said Elliott. “Even if there are more extreme versions of triathlon around these days.
“It also gets the most television coverage and is very much a global event.
“To compete in it has always been my dream since taking up the sport in 2005.”
Elliot, a factory quality inspector, was always a keen cyclist before being tempted to try the gruelling mix of long distance cycling, swimming and running.
He promised himself his first triathlon would be his last, after finding the competition utterly exhausting.
But he soon had the bug and has been competing in triathlons across Britain and Europe for several years.
To be invited to the Hawaii Ironman, entrants need to demonstrate high finishing in recognised triathlons around the world and earlier this year Elliot clinched his place when he finished among the leaders in the Lanzarote triathlon.
Elliot, who flew out with wife Kerry, also a keen triathlete (“if you can’t beat them, join them,” she said), plans to relish every moment of the trip.
But it is the 2.4 mile swim, 112-mile bike ride followed by a marathon run which will be the obvious highlight.
“For so many of us, it will be the taking part rather than the winning which will be on our minds,” said the Sunderland sportsman.
“Just to be involved in such an iconic event is fantastic – it’s the pinnacle of the sport and I’m already looking forward to lining up at the start point with all the hundreds of other competitors.
“The sport has really grown since it was first launched in the 1980s to the point where it is now an Olympic event. But the Ironman Hawaii is the one that everyone wants to be involved in and this year I get to be a part of it.
“It has been a lot of hard work to get to this point and I would like to thank all those who have helped me along the way, particularly my coach Alan Woodward and my sponsors Iredvenom.co.uk, Infinity Cycles in Durham and Up and Running in Gosforth.”