Olympic star’s triathlon test

Karen Darke
Karen Darke
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The night before a climbing trip, 21-year-old Karen Darke told a friend she’d rather be dead than paralysed.

Twelve hours later she fell from a cliff and was paralysed from the chest down.

Now 43, the silver medal winning Paralympic cyclist, who was born in Halifax, will present the premiere of Impossible, the film of her Ironman triathlon attempt, at Sheffield Adventure Film Festival on Friday, March 20.

Karen relies on arm power alone on the 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike ride and 26.2- mile run, using a hand-bike to cycle and a racing wheelchair for the run. The film explores how we tackle apparently insurmountable challenges and features Sir Ranulph Fiennes and World Ironman Champion Chrissie Wellington.

Karen describes being ‘gutted’ by her paralysis: “Nobody wants that for their life. But I learned I was lucky to have my life. It took me a while to adjust my mindset to reality, but I wanted to make the most of what I had and tried to focus on what I could do rather than what I couldn’t.” 

The film was made by Peak District based Polished Project. Karen says she was inspired by athlete Jose Manuel Lopez who was trying to make the Guinness Book of Records by doing 100 Ironman events in a year: “I hope the audience will be inspired to take away a reminder of the strength that is within all of us.”

It will be screened on Friday, March 20, at the Showroom Cinema at 9pm. The session will include a screening of former England rugby captain Catherine Spencer’s film Valeur, and a Q&A session with Karen and Catherine. Tickets £8.50/ £6