My Triathlon: Leo Hynes

Leo Hynes started the 2018 season as a newcomer to paratriathlon and finished with his first international start at Madeira Paratriathlon World Cup in October. We caught up with the Tri-Lakes Triathlon Club member and wife Aisling to hear all about their journey in the sport of triathlon.

My Triathlon_Leo Hynes

An active Dad of three, Leo Hynes became Visually Impaired in late 2015 having first being diagnosed with Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD) in 2009. Leo enjoyed playing football, soccer and rugby and had been a member of 2018 Triathlon Ireland Club of the Year, Tri-Lakes Triathlon Club. The change was a shock to Leo and his family;

"I was an independent person and I was used to doing my own thing, going to football, soccer, rugby, whatever different sports – swimming, triathlon, things like that. All of a sudden I was relying on other people to bring me here and bring me there, it was a real shock to the system."

"It was a tough time, it was hard to completely flip your life around like that, upside down. I kind of stayed at home, I wasn’t getting out as much. I think for about 2.5 years that I didn’t really get out of the house much." 

Leo Hynes DCT 2018

the turning point

In late 2017 Leo's wife Aisling encouraged him to attend an Open Day organised by Galway Sports Partnership and this represented a turning point. Hynes had the chance to try out cycling on a tandem bike and rediscovered his love for the sport. Working as a team, the Hynes' decided to purchase their own tandem and try cycling together. 

"They brought me out on the tandem, I was never on a tandem before, on the back of a bike. I loved it, it was great. Just the simple freedom, getting out in the fresh air and having the wind blow in your face. It was brilliant and I fell in love with it straight away."

Leo started going out with the Galway group every second Sunday but soon wanted more and the couple decided to buy a tandem bike themselves. While waiting for the bike to arrive, Leo started back in the pool with Aqua-aerobics.

"Myself and Aisling started to go down to the local Coral Leisure Swimming pool…we started doing that three days a week on Monday, Wednesday, Friday and just getting to know the pool again and the people. Then I started venturing off after the class and doing lengths myself in the lane. So that got me back into swimming again."

"Aisling was never on the front of a tandem and I was never on the back of a tandem so it was a bit of a learning experience! We were just going around in loops in our housing estate, practicing turning left and right and trying to communicate which foot goes down when you’re stopping and when you’re going."

One of Leo’s neighbours, Tri-Lakes TC member Tommy Carton, saw the pair and offered to go out with Leo on the bike. Having been out with Tommy, Leo decided to start back with Tri-Lakes Triathlon Club and go cycling with the club on Sundays.

"It was great to meet the Tri-Lakes gang again and there was loads of new members since the time I had stepped back from it. It was great, there’s a bit of banter going over and back and it’s great fun I really enjoyed it."

Pulse Port Beach 2018_Leo Hynes

a summer of triathlon

Leo's first paratriathlon was Westport Triathlon in June this year, with Tri-Lakes club chairman Stephen Corrigan as his guide. The PTVI Class in paratriathlon is for those who are blind or partially sighted and each athlete races with a guide. This requires teamwork and trust, as Leo explains;

"You work as a team…it takes a lot of practice. The hardest is when you’re stopping and starting really. When you’re going flat out  they basically tell you if there’s a left turn, a right turn and braking so you’re leaning with the bike. When it is stopping and slowing down it’s getting off the bike and they have to tell you to step off with the left foot or stepping off with the right foot. So it takes practice to get it all working and communicating together. You’re working as a team, everything has to be communicated."

"On the run they have to tell me where there’s obstacles or a step up or step down so again, I’m so reliant on the pilot and I’m so thankful they’re there. They keep saying 'Fair play to you Leo, well done!' and I say; 'If it wasn’t for you I’d be sitting at home on the couch, doing nothing!'."

Bitten by the triathlon bug again, Leo travelled the country for much of the summer racing in paratriathlon, including the Paratriathlon National Championships;

"Every triathlon I did I was getting faster and getting fitter, my times were improving. I did the Paratriathlon National Championships in Belfast and came third up there…I got a real taste for the competition and what it was like."

Madeira WC

The dream of representing Ireland became a reality when Leo got the chance to travel to Portugal in October to race at the Madeira Paratriathlon World Cup as part of Team Ireland.

Up next

This is only the beginning for Leo, and he has plans of more international and national races in 2019.

His achievements this summer led to Leo being awarded the inaugural Anna Considine Shield from Coral Leisure Centre in Tuam. The journey in triathlon involves the whole family, Leo and Aisling's children enjoy cheering their Dad on at his races and the couple are currently training in the gym together five times a week. Aisling is enjoying training in their local gym and the family's involvement in the sport;

"It’s great that this is something we can do together. But we’re really enjoying it we encourage each other and push each other as well so it’s great."

"The kids are just so proud of their Daddy... she sees him back out running again and cycling and swimming and they’re so proud of him."

Triathlon is a sport with a great community, and Leo sums it up perfectly;

"I’ve done a lot of sport throughout my life football and soccer and rugby and different things but there’s nothing like the community and the family of triathlon. Everyone is there to compete against themselves. There’s not that many people that are in competition with one another. They’re there talk to you and chat to you and spur you on. People doing it for the first time, others are there to give them help and information. It’s like one big community spirit."