Get to Know 3 Inspiring Athletes Set to Defy the Odds in the Ironman 70.3
“My biggest sporting highlight to date was racing at the Ironman World Championships in Kona, Hawaii in 2022,” says the London born triathlete. “Although that race was difficult, because of the humidity and I had gut issues, It was an amazing feeling to finish the race and to then learn that I was the first known person with autism to compete in this race. I then got a Guinness World record for my achievement.” Indeed, Holness’ most intense challenge isn’t the sporting or athletic aspect, but rather the digestion issues that thwart many people who suffer from autism. “So, it’s important that I get my nutrition perfect for the big day,” he says.
Representing other athletes and hopefuls that suffer with autism drives Holness to the finish line in every race. “When I was young, many people told me that I wouldn’t achieve a lot, but my parents didn’t believe them,” he says. “My family have always given me a lot of encouragement and made sure that I have everything around me to be happy and successful. So, don’t let your disability stop you from doing sport, get out there and try a sport that you like!”
In 2018, Zmeškal ran across the Czech Republic and raised more than 280,000 CZK ($12,550) for visually impaired child athletes. He also completed the Ultra Czech 515 Račice competition where he earned the title of World Champion in Para. In 2021, Zmeškal cycled the entire course of the Tour de France on a tandem bike with a guide and raised funds for visually impaired children. His next goal is to surpass himself and inspire others by crossing the finish line at the Ironman 70.3 World Championship.
Losing his sight meant that Zmeškal would have to train in ways that were safe while alone. “When I lost my sight, it was very important for me not to be so dependent on my family and friends,” he recalls. “That is why a cycling machine and a treadmill are the key accessories so that I can train by myself at any time.” Zmeškal has many motivations to push towards the finish line. “There are several things, he explains. “Whether it’s proving to all people, healthy or the disabled, that a handicap is no obstacle in my life, or helping blind children and making their life a little easier with sports. A lot of people are helping me, so I try to give back every way I can.”
“I consider Rafael Nadal to be my sports hero,” says Yarasca. “I watched his matches when I was recovering from the amputation of my right upper limb. His attitude on the court immediately impacted me, along with his respect for his opponents, his mental strength to face the decisive moments of the game and the courage to go for every ball and never give up a point. The resilience he showed when the game went uphill, and his desire to be a better person and athlete every day truly inspired me. In his book, he mentions the adversities that he had to overcome in his early days in tennis. However, he had a very clear and defined objective, teaching us that with focus and determination, anyone can achieve their personal, sporting and professional goals.”
Yarasca is leaving nothing to chance when it comes to putting on the best possible performance at the Ironman 70.3. “I had the opportunity to review the cycling segment ahead of time and saw that there are sectors with unevenness,” he says. “So, I think that will bring a different degree of difficulty compared to other competitions.” Together with his coach, Yarasca has incorporated uneven terrain into his cycling practice to get as familiar as possible with riding on this type of environment. “I made changes to my diet when I started triathlon because I understood the importance of being light,” explains Yarasca. “Even more so in the middle distance. However, since I found out that I was selected to compete in the Ironman 70.3 World Championship, together with my nutritionist, we made some adjustments to the diet that I had been taking, including increasing my intake of vegetables and greens.”
For Yarasca, Ironman 70.3 is a legacy that he is pursuing not just for himself, but for the people of Peru. “As an athlete, it would mean leaving a legacy in triathlon and Peruvian sport and having paved the way for many more para-athletes to dare to dream big,” he says proudly. “As a husband and father, it would mean a reward for so many years of effort for a dream. What really motivates me is that my son sees, through my example, that with dedication, commitment, trust and teamwork, great goals can be achieved!”