Switching from swimming to triathlon has given Claire Cashmore a new lease of life as she bids to appear at her fifth Paralympic Games.
A glittering career in the pool culminated in Cashmore’s first Paralympic gold in Rio four years ago as part of Great Britain’s 4x100m relay team, her eighth medal in all following podium finishes in Athens, Beijing and London.
In search of a fresh challenge, the 32-year-old decided to add running and cycling to her repertoire and has so far made a success of the transition.
Cashmore is the reigning world champion, while she also won the GBR National Championships in 2019 and picked up a silver at the Paratriathlon European Championships.
Such form raises the tantalising prospect of winning Paralympic medals in two different sports if she qualifies for this year’s rearranged Games – an achievement the Redditch-born star admits would be ‘hard to put into words.’
“It would be an absolute dream come true,” said Cashmore, who competes in the PTS5 classification for paratriathletes with a mild physical impairment.
“Being able to wear that ParalympicsGB tracksuit and represent your country is the most incredible feeling, hence why I’m still doing it.
“It’s so addictive and I keep having that hunger to go back again and achieve more. It would be phenomenal to represent ParalympicsGB again in Tokyo.
“As I’m in a new sport, it’s completely different and feels like going for the first time again. That buzz and excitement is 100 per cent still there – probably even more so now.”
Like athletes across all Paralympic sports, Cashmore was challenged by the initial uncertainty regarding Tokyo 2020 as lockdowns began to take hold across the globe.
‘A picture paints a 1000 words!’
As you can probably tell I am pretty chuffed to win World Champs.
Thanks for all the support online or on the course, it is greatly appreciated.#grandfinal #lausanne #gold #earlycelebration pic.twitter.com/EPut56Zgzl
— Claire Cashmore MBE (@ClaireCashmore) September 2, 2019
But once the Games were rearranged, her focus was renewed – though not without a feeling of being careful what you wish for.
“In January, I felt I was starting to get to grips with triathlon and really understand my body – I remember saying to my coach ‘if only we had a bit more time’,” Cashmore added.
“A few months later, we did get that extra time and I quite quickly kicked myself!
“But I kept saying to myself: ‘you wanted this time – how are you going to use it?’
“I was thinking about my rivals making progress to stop myself taking my foot off the gas. It would have been quite easy to lose that motivation, but I knew I needed to use that time wisely.
“I had to be creative – we bought a paddling pool for the garden, which was freezing – and not being able to use the main pool allowed me to really increase my run and bike volume.
“We have been lucky to have a couple of competitions. British Triathlon put some domestic events on and I took part in a local event in Shrewsbury alongside able-bodied competitors, which was really good to blow out the cobwebs.
“I performed really well in those events and hopefully that stands me in good stead for next year.”
Despite an impressive haul of medals since beginning her paratriathlon career, Cashmore has not had it all her own way.
But having overcome some early setbacks, she now has her sights firmly set on breaking new ground in a sport she has taken to her heart since making the switch.
“It might seem it has been smooth but there have been quite a few challenges,” she said.
“In my first World Championships I got knocked off the bike and it was a massive knock to my confidence.
“But that’s all part of the journey and you need moments like that to appreciate the highs when they come.
“On the whole, it has gone as well as I would have hoped and I hope it will only get better – I still think there’s potential to improve.
“My ambition is to really raise the bar of the sport and increase participation. That would be something I’d love to see leading into Paris  and a big aim of mine.
“It’s cool to step outside your comfort zone, try something completely different and freshen things up. The triathlon community is really special and different to what I’ve been involved in.
“I love the fact you can go to races and have the top Olympic guys there, like the Brownlee brothers, all the way down to young kids or a 98-year-old.
“That mass participation is really good and the people involved are so friendly. They love what they’re doing and there is so much passion, which is really refreshing.
“I’m absolutely loving it, it’s a brilliant sport and I’m so glad I made the move. It was 100 per cent the right thing for me to do.”
Claire is part of the British Triathlon performance programme which is supported by UK Sport and the National Lottery. For more information on Claire, view her profile here: https://www.britishtriathlon.org/gb-teams/elite-team/athletes.