World and Euro silvers for 70-year-old triathlete Churcher

Al Churcher and, below, with his friend and supporter Liz Bullivant
Al Churcher and, below, with his friend and supporter Liz Bullivant
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Ten days, two countries and two silver medals.

It has been quite a few weeks for Al Churcher.

Cheered on by his good friend Elizabeth Bullivant, Al finished runner-up in the 70-74 age group in the European Triathlon Championships, which took place in Lisbon. It was his second successive European silver and a remarkable achievement given his lack of preparation heading into the event.

Al, who turns 71 next week, said: “I had a few viruses in February which didn’t help and hadn’t done a single triathlon all year.

“But I went to Lisbon feeling pretty good, although a strong swim leg was followed by a disappointing bike time.

“Although I spent most of the 5km run overtaking younger athletes, the lack of training showed as I began to fade in the last 1/2km until entering the stadium where I dug in and found a last spurt of energy to the line.”

Al, a retired teacher, completed the triathlon in a time of 22.15 - almost a minute faster than his nearest his rivals.

Buoyed by his strong showing, Al travelled to Aviles, northern Spain, full of confidence for the sprint distance Duathlon World Championships.A duathlon consists of three sets of athletic activity but across two disciplines - running and cycling.

“With your legs being hammered for the whole event, it is much tougher physically than the triathlon,” conceded Al, who lives at Lodge Moor.

Before Aviles, Al had only ever competed in four races in the UK, suffering major knee problems in two of them. Despite a minor calf niggle, Al soldiered on in Spain to secure his second consecutive silver medal, equalling his personal best in the sprint distance. Edward Snelling won the race.

He said: “I was top shattered to really celebrate. It was only when I woke up the next morning that it finally sunk in that I had done the double I had set my sights on.

“I’m so proud to have won two international silver medals in 10 days. I had a wonderful time in a lovely town and met so many great people. It doesn’t get much better than that.”