Duathlete Franco McSherry will represent Great Britain at next weekend’s ITU Duathlon World Championships in Spain despite only showing an interest in the sport during summer 2012.
The 36-year-old from Fauldhouse qualified for the competition in Pontevedra on June 1 and will compete in the two-discipline event under the age category 36 to 39-year-olds. Duathletes compete in a run, a cycle ride and then another run.
After securing an overall sixth-place finish from 233 entries at the recent World Championships qualifier in Morpeth, McSherry earned the right to represent his country by finishing first in his age group, an opportunity he still finds difficult to comprehend.
“It’s still not really sunk in but I suppose when I’m on the plane next week going to Spain and meet up with the British team, it might hit home then,” McSherry explained. “I got all my kit sent last week so it was great to see that arrive. It’s a lot of effort I put in and you only get out what you put in.
“I don’t know what kind of doors it might open going to the World Championships. I’m hoping I can stay in the team and go to the European Championships next year. My target initially was to just qualify so I am going to go there and not put any pressure on myself and just enjoy the experience. I’ve set out a strategy and I know these guys will be at another level, but I’ve got into the British team so they’ll be thinking the same about me.”
The West Lothian Council worker’s inspiration for the endurance race came as he brought another chapter in his life to a close. Captain and goalkeeper of football club Bathgate Amateurs for five years, his passion and enthusiasm for playing at public parks declined with a close friend recommending triathlon as an alternative.
He said: “I had played Saturday football with Bathgate Amateurs previous to 2012. I then started to get fed up with football and was looking for a new challenge. One of my mate’s runs a triathlon club called GRC Triathlon which is West Lothian-based and he asked if I fancied coming along and giving it a try. I went along one night and it just picked up from there. Last year was my first full season in triathlon and I just seemed to get better and better. I did notice that the swimming side of things was my weakest so I decided to give some of the duathlons a shot. This year I decided to give the sprint race at the Scottish Duathlon Championships in Stirling a go instead of the standard distance, and I won the race by over a minute. At national level the age group consists of 20-39-year-olds so that’s quite a big age gap and there were guys there a lot younger than I am.
“I feel as if I am good at the duathlon then I might as well stick with it. There’s no point in trying to compete at the top level in the triathlon if I’m never going to get that far.”
McSherry can scarcely believe just how far he has progressed in little more than 24 months, an athlete who will now come face to face with the world’s elite stars. Unfortunately due to his age, he doesn’t qualify for any funding or support and has had to self fund his trip to north western Spain.
He added: “I get a lot of support from my family, friends, my work West Lothian Council and my club, so that always spurs you on. My coaches Robert Ovens and Carol McLaren have also helped an enormous amount. Although I’m 36, I feel like I am in my early 20s. I’m in great shape and as long as I am able to stay fit, then I’ll always give it 100 per cent.”
n AN event aimed at raising funds to boost Franco’s World Championships bid takes place this Saturday night at the Grange pub in Fauldhouse, 7pm.
The evening is open to anyone wishing to attend. Donations can also be made at: www.facebook.com/francomcsherry.