Third time a charm for Stuart

Flying the flag: Traralgon-born cyclist Stuart Tripp is off to his third Paralympics. file photograph

Liam Durkin

TRARALGON-BORN cyclist Stuart Tripp is preparing for his third Paralympics.

Tripp will be jetting off to Tokyo tomorrow along with 11 other teammates representing Australia in his sport.

Competing in the road time trial and road race, Tripp will be out to add to the silver he won in the time trail event at the 2016 games.

Now based in the Victorian town of Bright in the state’s north-east, Tripp said all involved with the para team were excited to finally get the games underway after last year’s instalment was cancelled due to the pandemic.

“We really started our journey five years ago,” he said.

“You start for the next games after the last one, you start collecting points for Paralympic spots through World Cups and World Championships.

“I moved to Bright in March 2020, living out there has been a great training environment for me to prepare so I couldn’t have any better place to prepare to continue training through a pandemic.”

Tripp has been training in Queensland in the lead-up to the games, where the team has spent time preparing as best it can to deal with the near 40 degree days that may well greet them in Tokyo.

“Part of what we are doing up here is what we call ‘heat acclimation block’, so we do a lot of work in saunas,” he explained.

“I’d do an hour and a half session on the road and then I’d come back and jump in the hot box for 20 minutes. We also have a heat room at the Queensland Institute of Sport where we take the bikes into the room and do a session in the room.

“What that does is two-fold, one it gives athletes opportunity to see what happens to your power over time as your body heats up, as your body gets hotter your power drops off, so it’s all about control and controlling your effort during the race.

“The other benefit is putting your body under heat duress increases the plasma in your blood-stream, which allows your blood to flow quicker through your system and that then allows you to cool yourself down quicker because you sweat better.”

When asked if he had ever experienced such oppressive conditions, the 51-year-old said he had dealt with 40 degree days in Bright, “but nowhere near the humidity” of what could be on the cards in Tokyo as some races in the Olympics just gone touched over 80 per cent humidity.

“We are preparing ourselves as best we can for that heat and adjusting our race plans accordingly with what the heat might do to us,” he said.

“We’ve been doing a lot of that up here getting ready for those types of conditions.”

As he prepares to take the track for his third Paralympics, Tripp said he would be applying the same philosophy that has served him well throughout his 11 years in the national team.

“Like I approach all my races I always try and do my best,” he said.

“On the day you want to do your best and if your best is good enough you will get a result. The silver in 2016 was a great result, I was happy with that, and now I’m trying to go to Tokyo and do my best.”

Tripp will have no shortage of support from those in the Latrobe Valley, having spent his formative years in Traralgon.

“I grew up in Traralgon, I spent the first 21 years of my life in Traralgon, parents still live in Traralgon, I have lots of good mates in Traralgon and I have lots of strong connections with Traralgon,” he said.

“I don’t get there as often as I would like to, living in Bright now it’s quite a journey over the hill.”

Tripp’s story in becoming a Paralympian is as much a tale of triumph over adversity as it is triumph over a path that may have led to something much worse.

After losing his right leg in a car crash at the age of 24 in 1994, Tripp turned to alcohol and smoking as a coping method before discovering handcycling in 2003.

While losing a right leg changed his life, handcycling may well have saved it.

Now on the way to another Paralympics, Tripp said the sense of honour to be involved in such an event was never downplayed by those who took part.

“It is very special. It is the culmination of four years of work,” he said.

“It was a competitive team to get into. The way the points system works, the allocation of slots … not everybody can go to the Paralympics.

“It’s awesome (the Paralympics), it’s about people achieving. It’s an achievement to get in the team itself and it’s an achievement to do your best when you get there.”