It’s a rare that Alistair Brownlee is beaten by a British triathlete, let alone one that has only been competing for two years.
But on Saturday night British Triathlon Association’s annual awards Lydney’s Andy Lewis, Team GB’s first – and so far only – Paralympic gold medallist, beat the pride of Leeds to the ‘Peter Holmes Award for an Inspirational Performance in Elite Competition.’
An emotional Lewis, 33, who competes in the men’s PT2 category and wears a prosthetic right leg, had already been crowned elite paratriathlete of the year.
“I hadn’t even come from backstage after receiving the first award,” Lewis said. “Alistair Brownlee literally grabbed me and said: It’s you, it’s you, go and get it, go and get it!
“I was shocked to win the paratri award given the guys I was up against, my team-mate Joe Townsend , who lost his legs in Afghanistan, and the up and coming George Peasgood. It was just nice to celebrate with everyone after a tough season.”
It may have been a tough season for Lewis but it is also one of unparalleled success. He won the European title in Lisbon in May, the world title in Rotterdam in July before running from third to first out of T2 in Rio to claim Paralympic gold.
“It’s incredible really,” he added. “Two years ago I was taking part in my first triathlon in Lydney. Now I’m sharing the stage with the Brownlees. I never thought I’d have had this opportunity.
Lewis came to the sport through the Arctic One Foundation, a charity that helps individuals take part in sport, including para athletes transition to multisport.
A fast learner, could Lewis ever envisage being a Paralympic champion? “No, I didn’t even know I was going to qualify for Rio,” he said. “I just thought: ‘I know I can run, I just need someone to teach me to swim and help me ride a bike – and who knows what can happen.’
“I’m one of these people who believes that if I give it my all, I can be pretty good, but if I’m honest, after the past few months, the only thing I’m waiting for is … the comedown!”