Defying all odds, a man from Aurangabad scripted history by becoming the first visually-impaired Indian to finish an Ironman triathlon in Dubai that involved swimming, bicycling and running.
Niket Dalal, 38, achieved the feat with the help of his sighted ally, Arham Shaikh, 27. The Ironman 70.3 consists of a 1.9km swim, 90km bicycle ride and 21.1km marathon that needs to be wrapped up under 8 hours without taking a break.
The athletes successfully completed the tedious race in 7 hours and 44 minutes, securing second place in their category of differently-abled athletes. They also completed the race with 46 minutes to spare. It was their first attempt at Ironman Triathlon.
The duo trained hard under Pune-based coaching academy PowerPeaks Athlete Lab, founded by coach and pro-athlete Chaitanya Velhal for a period of four months, continuously refining and improving their skill-set for the mammoth task, especially their coordination.
While Dalal is a professional speech therapist, Shaikh holds a Masters in Computer Science from Pune University but works full time in the field of athlete performance conditioning. Both athletes have participated in multiple races and competitions before and has many achievements under their belts.
For the first leg of the race, the duo were tethered together. Swimming together like that for 1.9 kms in the open seas with hundreds of other athletes in the water, while trying to keep to the course was extremely challenging, but thanks to Dalal’s experience as a swimmer it was one of his strongest sections and completed it well within the cut off time, their coach said.
In the second round, Shaikh’s experience as ultracyclist was surely an advantage and worked in their favour. However, running in the soaring temperature for more than 20km wasn’t easy but owing to their training they crossed the finish line well before the time.
“The first Indian crossed the line of an Ironman in 2005, till 2020 and we had no disabled athlete compete and complete the race yet. I believe if we have work towards complete inclusivity, this huge gap of 15 years needs to be bridged and one of the major reason why I
did this,” Dalal said in a statement. He hopes his achievement develops a more inclusive environment for differently-abled athletes and inspires others.
But this is not the end of the road. He hopes to compete in the full Ironman challenge. The pair now aims to do the full Super Randonneur series, which means they will have to do a 200km, 300km, 400km and 600km Brevets (Long distance bike rides with time cut-offs) in a single year.
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