Athlete fights back to health for ironman

READY TO RIDE Paul Hickman has battled his way back from crippling ill health to compete in his third Iron Man. Picture: Allan Hutchings (131575-201)
READY TO RIDE Paul Hickman has battled his way back from crippling ill health to compete in his third Iron Man. Picture: Allan Hutchings (131575-201)
Picture: Hampshire police

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A TRIATHLETE who was once told he would never walk again has fought his way back to take part in an ironman challenge.

Paul Hickman, from Catherington, has overcome years of illness to get back to health and take part in one of the most gruelling athletic challenges in the world.

Incredibly, when he was in his 30s, the 61-year-old was told he would never walk again because of a paralysing back condition.

He said: ‘It was excruciating pain in my lower back, and I was on 20 pain killers a day.

‘Then three days before my 40th birthday I was rushed to hospital.

‘I couldn’t walk for six months. I lost everything, including my business, and I ended up staying at my father’s house.

‘After six months, I thought I was either going to go round the bend or I was going to try and get back.’

Two years later, however, the pain came back.

‘I was in absolute despair,’ he said.

‘I left the doctors and went back to my flat, and didn’t feel like doing anything.

‘Then Mick Mellows, of Faith & Football, invited me to a meal and to hear a Christian speaker.

‘I didn’t want to go – I wanted a free meal and maybe to take the mickey a bit. But then I went up for a prayer and the pain just went away.’

Paul hasn’t looked back, taking up horse riding, walking, running and then, finally, triathlons.

His involvement in the sport led him to start his business, Tri-Sport Group, and write a book about competing in triathlons, giving advice to others who may be struggling with the sport.

He has been a masseur for the Harlequins Rugby Team, and was in the dressing room with Pompey at the 2010 FA Cup final against Chelsea.

He has completed two ironman challenges: a 2.4-mile swim, followed by a 116-mile bike ride, then finished off with a 26.2-mile marathon run.

But then disaster struck again. He had entered the 2010 ironman challenge in Nice and during a 3km race swim at Dorney he lost the use of his right arm.

‘I thought I was having a heart attack,’ he said.

Medics diagnosed a stroke, caused by a torn artery and told him if he attempted to swim again the pressure would be too much.

‘I was actually misdiagnosed. It turned out to be an impinged nerve, and the doctors cleared me to train again in October last year, and I’ve been training ever since.

He has once again entered the France ironman in Nice, and will be raising money for Little Angels, a programme run by the Mustard Seed Ministries to build orphanages in India.

You can sponsor him online at