Belfast Telegraph

Ironman who won his biggest battle

Oldest competitor in today's triathlon event survived cancer at 56

By Amanda Ferguson

The oldest competitor in this year's Lough Neagh Triathlon has spoken of how battling cancer 15 years ago led to him developing a passion for endurance challenges.

Sprightly septuagenarian Sam Gordon from Portglenone has taken part in nearly 100 triathlon events since going through surgery for colon cancer when he was 56.

The 71-year-old will take on his ninth Lough Neagh Triathlon – a 750m swim, a 20km cycle and 5km run – in Ballyronan today.

This comes after the energetic father-of-two secured second place at the tough-going Lanzarote Ironman event in May. This involved a 2.5 mile ocean swim, 112 mountainous miles on a bike and a 26.2 mile marathon run, all to be completed inside 17 hours.

This year there were 2,291 competitors, Sam finished second in the 70-74 age group and was 1,829th overall.

"I have taken part in Ironman five times," he said. "On May 17 I finished second in my age group. I was beaten by a 69-year-old German by half an hour!"

Sam, who works for NRS fixing, modifying and delivering wheelchairs, said cancer at 56 made him re-evaluate life and at 58 he decided to give triathlon a go.

"I took up triathlon at 58 following colon cancer," he said.

"I was working for BT at the time, organising swimathons and a man called Peter Jack invited me to try one of his triathlons and I was hooked.

"I thought it was the greatest fun ever." Sam does not follow a strict food regime but is "sensible" about what he eats.

"None of these greasy burgers or any of that," he said.

The inspiring Co Antrim man, who has raised more than £5,500 for charity over the last few years, told the Belfast Telegraph he cannot wait to take on the Lough Neagh Triathlon sponsored by Acti-Snack today alongside athletes from England, Germany, Mexico and Poland.

"I am looking forward to it, it is always nice to go down there and see them again." he said.

Sam is urging other mature men and women to give triathlon a try. "Give it a go," he said. "Take your own time. Get round there!"

Background

The Lough Neagh Triathlon takes place in Ballyronan today.

The event, sponsored by Acti-Snack and organised by Hi Elbow Triathlon Club, Cookstown District Council and Traad and Ballyronan Ballinderry Development Association, will be over the sprint distance of a 750m swim, a 20km cycle and a 5km run.

Sam Gordon (71) from Portglenone is this year's oldest competitor. He will take part today for the ninth time. A shorter Super Sprint race, aimed at those new to triathlon, and a children's event will also run.

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