Barbara Holmes - the St Annes mum and World Triathlon champion
PUBLISHED: 00:00 05 January 2017
A mum from St Annes who hadn’t been in a swimming pool for 35 years is now a world champion triathlete.
For 35 years Barbara Holmes didn’t dip her toe in a swimming pool, but within a couple of years of taking the plunge again she was celebrating a world championship.
‘I started swimming again when I took my sons to a swimming club in Blackpool,’ she said. ‘I noticed there was a masters’ group so I joined that and found I was quite good.’
The huge collection of medals and trophies at her home in St Annes suggests that ‘quite good’ is something of an understatement.
She has already run out of space to show off all her medals and many more are now hidden away in shoeboxes. If she wins many more trophies she will need a bigger sideboard to display them all.
Shortly after she took up swimming again, Barbara, the 57-year-old mother of two teenage boys, competed in an aquathlon, which involves running and swimming. ‘Although I hadn’t swum for a long time, I had always run or jogged, so I suppose I was quite fit and I realised I could do it and I enjoyed it.’
Within a few years she held the world and European titles in her age group. She has since added cycling to compete in triathlons and has taken part in one iron woman contest.
She brought home a silver medal from the Triathlon European Championships in Lisbon last year and then won gold at the World Triathlon Grand Final in Cozumel, a Mexican island in the Caribbean.
The 41-strong field in the Women 55-59 category for the sprint event – which included eight other British athletes – faced a 750m swim in the sea, a 20k bike ride and a 5k run.
‘It was incredibly hot and really lovely,’ Barbara said. ‘It was a superb setting and quite distracting to be swimming in the nice warm sea and seeing all the fish.’
She wasn’t too distracted though – she finished the race in a time of 1.14.01, more than 50 seconds ahead of the second placed finisher.
And Barbara, who works part-time at the Land Registry near Lytham, added: ‘I had a go at a half iron man event last summer and won my age group – that’s a 1.9k swim, a 90k bike ride and a 21k run. I have thought about taking part in the world championships but I don’t know if I have enough time to train.
‘I do about 10 or 12 hours a week training, following the plan my coach sends me, but to get ready for the full iron man I’d need more training and with work and family, I’m not sure I’d be able to do it.
‘The training inspires me to keep going. Until people give it a shot, they don’t know what they can do. I find that motivation comes from realising what you can do. People see themselves improving and that motivates them to carry on.
‘If I hadn’t got that buzz I wouldn’t have carried on. People need to see what can be done.’
And Barbara isn’t the only one in the household who enjoys that buzz of sporting achievement – husband Gary has a black belt in judo and their younger son Ben, 16, plays rugby union for Lancashire, while his 18-year-old brother Tom also took part in the triathlon world championships in Cozumel.