MARK RAFFERTY has been selected as the competition winner for the final place on the 2013 Les Stables-ZEROD age-group team.
From a sporting family in Dundalk in Ireland, Mark did have aspirations to be a professional footballer. But the Raffertys have not always been terribly lucky when it comes to pursuing their sporting dreams.
Take his brother’s story. Barry Rafferty was a fine sprinter. He had a personal best of 10.09secs and was selected to run for Ireland against Donovan Bailey and Frankie Fredericks at the Atlanta Olympics in 1996. But two weeks before the Games Barry fell ill, was sent home from the training camp and was so bitterly disappointed he never competed again.
Mark had trials with Liverpool, Leeds and Celtic while making a bit of a name for himself in the League Of Ireland. But Mark’s career was cruelly cut short by serious injury, and that was pretty much that.
Until, that is, Mark bought himself a bike. And then taught himself to swim. And then discovered the brilliant sport that is triathlon.
Now 27, he works at his local swimming pool, dividing his time between lifeguard duties and teaching kids to swim. He has also set up the Aura Dundalk Swimming Club, encouraging young kids to get into triathlon too.
Mark’s proved pretty damn good across the three disciplines, even if those old injury issues can give him a few problems on the run. Had it not been for hamstring trouble he would have finished with an even better time than the highly respectable 9hrs 45mins he managed in Frankfurt.
‘I wanted to qualify for Kona,’ said Mark, who has completed three Ironman’s so far. ‘That is the dream and the target, again, for this year.’
Barry, who according to Mark has ‘enjoyed the good life’ since giving up sprinting, is also now a triathlete, finishing Frankfurt in around 12 and a half hours last year.
The objective of the Les Stables–ZEROD team is to offer support to selected youngsters and age group athletes who not only show promise but also give something back to the sport; people who have a real love and enthusiasm for what they are doing. Results are important but it is not seen within the team as the only goal. It is as much about the journey.
‘I’m delighted to be part of the new Les Stables-ZEROD team,’ said Mark. ‘It would be good to share knowledge and experiences with my new team-mates. I’m keen to kelp out in any way I can.’
Mark Shaw, Director at Les Stables, said: ‘Mark looked like just the type of person we wanted in the team. We could already see he was giving something back to the sport with his work with the kids in Ireland, and if we can now help him achieve his aim of a place at the World Championships in Hawaii then that will be a reward for both him and us.
‘With the opportunity to train with 23-year-old Nick Baldwin (40th at Hawaii 2012) and other members of the squad I am sure he will pick up a great deal of advice along the way. Let’s hope we can help him reach that goal.’