British Engineering Company Spencer Group has pledged their support to local GB Paralympic Triathlon hopeful, Ruth Wilson, by purchasing a professional racing bike which is fundamental to Ruth’s training.
Diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease at the age of 40, Ruth had a couple of low moments but had no intention of letting the disease beat her. As a lifelong fan of running, Ruth took to the track like a natural, however, she wanted to take this further and despite not being able to ride a bike and with a huge fear of water, Ruth began triathlon training. Now 47, Ruth is defying all odds and competing for a place at this year’s September Paralympic games in Rio De Janeiro.
“When I was first diagnosed it was obviously devastating for me and my family but I refused to give in to the disease. Training for triathlons was my way of showing my family I was ok and that they did not have to worry about me; all the health benefits that came with it were a bonus.” Ruth explains.
“The tremors originally started in my right thumb but soon spread to the whole of my right arm. Learning to ride a bike was one thing but having to switch gears, whilst my right hand was constantly cramping was another. I am so grateful to Spencer Group for providing me with such a high-spec bike; its electronic gears have enabled me too really up my game.”
Despite the lengths Ruth is making on her bike, she still panics every time she enters water. During two different events, Ruth has had to be rescued out of the water, having suffered a panic attack, and ferried back to dry land – but this has never deterred her from getting back in.
“My swimming is improving. On the 15th May 2016, I competed in my very first Elite Paratriathlon ITU WTE (International Triathlon Union World Triathlon Series) and came third to win a podium bronze – which I am absolutely delighted with!”
The event, which was held in Aguilas, Spain, included a sea swim and was only the second time Ruth had ever swam in the sea. To help battle her nerves, Ruth has appointed a swimming coach, Stewart Livingstone, and she is enthusiastic at the improvements she will make in the future.
Ruth’s eldest daughter Gemma, is also a keen triathlete and a fantastic swimmer but will never race alongside her mother, as she insists on being pool side during her mum’s races to ensure she makes it through safely.
Since the beginning of her training, Ruth has been coached by Kevin Dawson (11-times British all round Time Trial Champion) and highlights that Kevin has been the driving force behind her success.
“I never thought I would have got to this level but Kev has been my rock and has adapted everything around my drugs and condition. As Parkinson’s is that unpredictable, things change on a weekly, and sometimes daily basis and without Kev I would not be the triathlete/Duathlete I am today.”
Kevin and Ruth first met around 4-years ago at a local pool in the early days of their triathlon training.
Kevin said: “I come from a cycling background and Ruth from a running background. Despite her fear, Ruth was much better than me in the pool; she helped me swim and I offered to help her on the bike.”
“Her trajectory has been fantastic all the while coping with Parkinson’s. Sport is the way Ruth manages her condition; a regular routine of stretching and physiotherapy keeps her mobile and the racing and training keeps her eyes firmly focused on her targets.”
With the help of Kevin and Andrew Coulson, Ruth’s Sports Therapist, Ruth won the first, able-bodied Duathlon qualifier race she competed in; which took her to the 2015 European Championships (also able bodied) in Horst, Netherlands where she finished 6th and then to the (able bodied) 2015 World Championships in Pontevedra, Spain, where she finished 4th.
Since the World Championships in Pontevedra, Ruth has competed in three more races: 2015 Duathlon European Championships in Alcobendas, Madrid, Spain where she finished 3rd; 2015 World Championships in Adelaide, Australia, where she finished 5th and this year’s European Championships in Kalkar, Germany, where she finished 4th
Ruth next races in the Elite Paratriathlon ITU WTE in Strathclyde, Scotland on the 5th June and then again at another ITU event in Besançon, France on 19th June.
“The sponsorship Spencer Group has given Ruth will now help her push even further as bike and equipment technology continues to move rapidly forward. Ruth has her targets set on the 2016 Paralympic games and Spencer’s help and her determination are a great combination to meet every challenge.”
Having gone through the whole of Ruth’s journey alongside her, Kevin says he is in awe of her spirit and determination and concludes: “Put a number on Ruth’s back and nothing will slow her down.”