Lewis eager to retain World Championship title months after career-threatening crash
Winning a World Championship title is a remarkable feat for any athlete, but for Andy Lewis, victory at the ITU World Triathlon Grand Final would be one of his greatest ever achievements.
Rio 2016 Paralympic champion Lewis stood on top of the world podium in Rotterdam last year, and will be looking to retain his title when he returns to the Dutch city on Friday.
But this year has been far from plain sailing for the 34-year-old – a crash in June leaving his paratriathlon career hanging in the balance.
Lewis was out for a training ride when he was thrown from his bike after hitting a dog, resulting in a torn shoulder ligament, 23 stitches in his hip and elbow, and a suspected fractured collarbone.
Yet, despite the odds stacking against him, Lewis was back in action in time for August’s British Championships, adding another gold medal to his already bulging collection.
And while the physical scars have almost healed, Lewis’ comeback has been a psychological challenge – though it’s one he’s determined to conquer in the Netherlands.
"I honestly thought my career might be over. I didn't think I would be able to swim for a long time." Andy Lewis
“I was out on a training ride and I was going quite fast down a hill when a farm dog decided to run out of a gate and I crashed straight into it,” said Lewis.
“The dog was fine, but I have to see the physio every other day, and I really didn’t think I would be ready to start racing again, but here I am about to go the worlds.
“Everyone has been working closely together to get me back on form. I missed three major races, but I won the British title in my first race back.
“I honestly thought my career might be over. I didn’t think I would be able to swim for a long time.
“It massively affected me mentally. I spent a lot of time with the psychologist to help me get over it all.
“When you go from training two or three times a day, to not being able to train at all, it’s really upsetting.
“But I’ve overcome enough in my life that this wasn’t going to stop me.”
On Friday, Lewis will race in the PTS2 category, and will tackle a 750m swim, 20km bike ride and a 5km run in his bid for back-to-back world titles.
And while he admits to feeling pressure to perform, Lewis is just happy to be back doing what he does best.
“I’m feeling very motivated ahead of the worlds, but I still have that concern in the back of my head about my swimming ability and my fitness levels compared to everyone else,” he said.
“I am really keen to go out there and just prove to myself, and to others, what I can do despite having eight weeks out.
“I’ve definitely got it in the tank to get on that podium. I’m just happy to be back racing at the world level though.
“I always feel as though I have a target on my back. Now that I hold the Paralympic, World, European and British titles, everyone is going to be watching what I do.
“People will analyse everything, but the pressure comes from within. I put more pressure on myself than anyone, but that is what makes an athlete.”