After Josh Stapley fractured his neck in 2016 there was a time he considered giving away the sport of triathlon, but now he is working towards a return to national colours.
Stapley fractured his C5 vertebrae when diving into a sandbar at Bondi Beach, the incident leaving him in a neck brace and with some weakness in his right arm. It also sidelined him from competing for a year.
He considered a switch in his sporting focus, but after plenty of physiotherapy, work on his recovery and then a return to training, Stapley is back doing triathlons.
He picked up long course podium finishes in the first two rounds of the Bathurst Wallabies Triathlon Club season then placed first in his 20-24 years male category and fourth outright at the Wyong Triathlon Festival.
“When I first broke my neck I really thought about my options, I had no strength in my triceps, so that would impact my swimming. I actually considered switching to cycling full-time,” Stapley said.
“But now at the moment my swim leg is probably the best leg I’ve got, so it’s been a complete turnaround for me.”
Stapley is now working towards Australian selection, the talented triathlete keen to emulate his efforts of 2015 when wearing green and gold at the World Triathlon Championships in Chicago.
The first of three qualifiers he has on his hit list will be at Canberra on February 3.
That is followed by nationals at Mooloolaba in March and another qualifying round a week later at Wollongong.
There is also an option for him to compete in a Victorian qualifier should the need arise.
To prepare for that schedule Stapley has been doing speed work training in Orange with team-mate Connor Whiteley and joined Bathurst Cycling Club members Mark Windsor and Josh Corcoran to improve his cycle.
Stapley will also look to train with fellow Bathurst triathlete and Australian hopeful Nick North.
He knows there is improving to do, but his efforts at Wyong shows that he is on track. He took one hour, 39 minutes, 41 seconds to cover the club distance race – a one kilometre swim, 30km cycle and 8km run.
“It was a really good race for me to kick things off with at the moment. My speciality is the Olympic distance, which is just a little bit longer,” he said.
“You do notice the difference from having two years away from racing, especially when I was trying to get out of my wetsuit in transition, that still needs a bit of work.
“But in terms of racing itself, it’s all the same. It’s a little bit hard for me at the moment because my main racing in in February/March I’m not in my main training block, I’m still building the base.”
* This article was written by Anya Whitelaw and first appeared in the Western Advocate