Fitness isn’t only a lifestyle, but it can come with a message, or so believes an 11-year-old girl who accepted the Dubai Fitness Challenge in her own special way.
Tia Watson completed a Sprint Distance Triathlon race of 750 metres swim, 20km cycle and 5km race while pulling her 15-year-old brother Rio, who’s born with a disability. She aimed to break an Official World Record at the TriFest at Jebel Ali Waterfront.
“I wanted to challenge myself and help Rio, while inspiring people to get fit and making them aware of inclusion,” Tia told Khaleej Times. “Rio and I play a lot, so I wanted him to join me in the triathlon.”
Tia took her older brother, who weighs 4kg heavier than her, in the triathlon through pulling him in a kayak while swimming, pulling his disability chair in her cycling journey and pushing his wheelchair in her run. His rare 1q44 microdeletion syndrome causes him difficulties to talk and move.
But sport isn’t something new for Tia who started racing ever since she was eight years old. She trains five times a week in MyTriClub, and sees her family playing sports with Rio on the weekends. “When the extraordinary becomes ordinary, she wants to help Rio experience what he can’t do independently and what he loves being included in,” her father Nick Watson said.
The family founded non-profitable organisation Team Angel Wolf to raise awareness about integrating people of determination, especially children, into sports. Describing the experience, Tia said cycling in windy conditions “was the toughest thing I have ever done. But I told myself to never give up, and that’s how I finished the race”.
For the family, competing in a race takes extra effort and equipment than other athletes as they drag two bikes, two disability chairs, kayak and a massive luggage bag full of equipment that include three helmets, life jacket, ankle strap and cable (for swim) among other things.
How Tia found the energy and strength to get Rio out of the bike chair into the running chair, her father Nick said he wasn’t sure but was proud that she did. “I think it gave her a great sense of liberation and freedom, as running is her strongest discipline. It was still tough though, as by that time it was hot, direct heat on,” Nick said.
For Tia, it was her brother’s big smiles and deep look into her eyes that made all the efforts worthwhile. She aims to become a professional triathlete in the future.