A LITTLE over three years ago Oly Stanley, one of Britain’s elite triathletes, was on top of the world.
Leading the 2007 Royles Deva Triathlon, the young athlete from Chester was pedalling through Rossett on his racing bike, comfortably ahead of the rest of the field.
He was preparing for the following year’s Olympic Games in Beijing, and had high hopes of being selected for Great Britain’s triathlon team.
But at that moment everything changed after he was struck by a motor vehicle and knocked from his bike.
Oly was left with career-threatening injuries to both his hips.
He was just 20 years of age.
He says: “I was still a junior when it happened. Prior to the accident I had been hoping to go to the junior world championships and put in a good show, and then go to Beijing.
“But that all changed. I went from being able to do anything I wanted to not being able to walk.”
Oly has since had four operations on his right hip, and two on his left. The force of the collision forced both his femurs, his thigh bones, up into his pelvis, tearing cartilage in the process. The bones have had to be completely reshaped by surgeons.
At the time Oly, a former pupil of Abbey Gate College in Chester, was studying and training at Loughborough, the UK’s top university for sports development, research and education.
And it is thanks to the support of staff, doctors and fellow students there that he has been able to make an extraordinary recovery.
Incredibly, in October he was able to return to training. He currently juggles the demands of three daily sessions with studying for a Masters at Loughborough in sports management.
He says: “You go from being an athlete to not.
“I sort of lost my way a little bit. I didn’t enjoy going out because what had happened was always on my mind.
“Luckily I’ve got a lot of friends.
“And now I’m set on getting back to the level I was. People have shown a lot of faith in me, and I want to repay them.”
Little by little, and not without setbacks, Oly, still only 23, is now returning to the kind of fitness he was at before training. He spends up to 35 hours a week in training.
There have been tough times – he has had to go back into surgery to have his femurs reshaped again.
He says: “A lot of the time I thought I was ok – I was biking and swimming well – but the running caused the problems, because of the impact on the body.”
His first competition back in June was a return to his favourite of the three triathlon disciplines – swimming – at the Dee Mile race. He finished second.
Soon after he competed in the Llandudno Sprint Triathlon in front of family including parents Mary and Tim, who live in Upton. He won the event by nine minutes.
Since then he has finished third in two separate high-class races in London. And on Sunday comes his biggest challenge yet.
Along with more than 10,000 other competitors he will take part in the London Triathlon – his first international event for three years – as a member of Great Britain’s High Performance Squad.
His training partner is Tim Don, a legend in triathlon who has won world championships and competed in the past three Olympic Games.
Oly is determined to do well and is already looking ahead to further competitions in Barcelona, Turkey and Holland.
And, of course, there is the hope that, if everything goes well, he will be selected for the Olympics in London in two years time.
He says: “It’s nice just to be involved. I’m still feeling the pain quite a bit but it’s just a case of managing it. I have to go easy sometimes, which can actually be quite hard because you want to keep pushing.
“I’m still only 23, so hopefully I’ve got plenty of time to get where I want to be.”
And speaking about the potential of competing in London he said: “If I didn’t think I was in the mix to go I wouldn’t still be training. I was gutted not to go to Beijing and I really want to prove I can be the best I can.”
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