Para Tri was a 'rewarding experience'

Maria Coyle from the Brain Injury Hub took part in the UK’s first ever mass sporting event which is open to both disabled and non-disabled competitors; The Para-Tri  which took part on Sunday (9 August).

Below she shares her experience of competing alongside a range of people including young people who have a brain injury.

Maria and team mate, Emily (15) who sustained a brain injury last year
Taking part in the sprint relay at the Para Tri was an incredibly humbling and uplifting experience and something I am very proud to have taken part in. I joined colleagues from The Children’s Trust and children who had received rehabilitation from the charity following a brain injury, on what was to be a day of triumph, glorious sunshine and lots of laughs. It was the first event of its kind and competitors included adults and children, and teams made up of both disabled and non-disabled participants.  I was delighted to learn that 15-year-old Emily was in my team, along with David from Barclays. I met Emily last year during her various stages of rehabilitation for a brain injury following a car accident. Dressed as fashionably as ever, Emily excitedly told me where she had bought her sunglasses and of how nervous she was to be taking part in the running leg of the relay. It was hard to believe this was the girl, who when I first met her, had communication difficulties following her accident.  All the teams listened to the briefing session before the relay- most of us, new to triathlon events, must have looked anxious, as we were given an encouraging pat on the back and thumbs up by fellow competitor, Alfie Russell. Alfie was left with severe brain injuries after being knocked off his bike aged 10. Now 26, he has taken part in various sporting events including the London Marathon and a trek in Vietnam.
Harrison, 15, (right) with his partner Dean and fellow competitor, Angela Robertshaw
During my leg of the relay, which was cycling, my legs burned as my body responded to the lack of training. I could only watch in admiration as people effortlessly whirred along, including those in hand-bikes and tricycles. Harrison, 15, completed the 3k cycle on a side-by-side hand-bike, supported by health play specialist, Dean. Harrison is currently receiving rehabilitation after a stroke. He is unable to move his right side and has speech and language difficulties. However he responded with a definite ‘not really’ when I asked him was the cycle difficult on his completion. Dean said Harrison was determined to take on most of the exertion and he certainly did that. Seb, 10 who suffered a brain injury and lost a leg in an accident last year took part along with his twin brother, Ben. Although he is now using his prosthetic leg on a regular basis, Seb decided to use his wheelchair for the relay. His arms and hands moved energetically and he was soon in the distance, speeding towards the finish line.
Isaac,9, has raised around £1,000 through sponsorhip: pictured with his family
During the day I met 9-year-old Isaac who took part in a run with British Paralympic athlete, David Weir on the sprint relay as well as cycling for his family team. I knew of Isaac’s story as his mum, Nicola often posts on our Brain Injury Hub forum. Isaac sustained a brain injury in 2013 after being kicked by a horse. So It was lovely to meet him and his family in person. Nicola explained to me that the event was brilliant for her son; emphasising that he can still compete like everyone else and to see other young people who had been through similar experiences. Isaac raised around £1,000 sponsorship by taking part in Para Tri. As I watched my teammate, Emily cross the finish line of the relay with a beaming and resolute smile, I couldn’t help but plan ahead and look forward to next year! We exchanged a triumphant embrace and collected our medals before joining the others for photos and chatting in the sun. Well done to all fellow competitors. I look forward to seeing you next year!
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