A firefighter who received support from the Neil Hudgell Trust for his sporting endeavours has achieved major success in his two most recent competitions.
Paul Clucas, 45, only took up triathlon, which includes swimming, cycling and running, as well as duathlon, which is made up of running and cycling, four years ago and has never looked back, representing Great Britain across the globe.
Now, he has finished eighth in the world and third in Great Britain in the 45-49 age category at the World Duathlon Championships in Adelaide, Australia, as well as 25th in the world and fifth overall in Great Britain in the same age category at the World Triathlon Championships in Chicago.
Paul, a father-of-two from Kingswood, was awarded a £1,000 discretionary grant from the Neil Hudgell Trust, which helped towards upgrading his sports equipment for each discipline.
As he enters the winter down time period, he said 2015 has been an incredible year and one he will never forget.
“This year has surpassed my expectations,” said Paul, Station Manager for Emergency Response on the North Bank for Humberside Fire and Rescue Service.
“Last year I competed for Great Britain once, so to do it four times this year is way beyond what I thought I could achieve.
“I’m looking forward to next year. This year has seen big strides made, as I have taken on a coach. Now, the challenge is whether I can take it to the next level and continue that progression, and surpass this year.
“It’s a big ask but I’m going to give it my all and I couldn’t do it without the support of my family, friends, colleagues and sponsors.”
In September last year, Paul travelled to represent Great Britain in the World Triathlon Championships in Edmonton, Canada, finishing 32nd out of 90 in the 40-44 age category, placing him 32nd in the world.
After qualifying again in the 45-49 age category, he travelled to compete in the World Duathlon Championships in Madrid, Spain, in March this year, finishing 12th out of 42 competitors.
This year also saw Paul finish 14th out of 58 in the world in the 45-49 age category of the European Triathlon Championships in Geneva.
Competing in 32 degrees heat, he was placed 5th out of 20 British competitors.
Looking back at the Chicago competition in September, Paul said battling soaring temperatures made for an even tougher race.
He said: “After months of training mostly twice a day at levels that pushed me beyond my perceived limits, I competed in the largest age group at the finals and had set myself some pretty high targets going into the event.
“I was maybe reaching for the moon, but that allows you to land on the stars if you fall short.
“In Chicago, I finished 25th in the world at an event I have worked extremely hard at and was very pleased with my performance in what was not only the largest field but a very high quality one. Being the fifth Brit over the line which was another big plus.”
Paul, who has also nursed a foot injury throughout the year, qualified for all four available Great Britain events during 2015 and, as he finished eighth in the world in Australia, it means he has already automatically pre-qualified for next year’s Worlds.
He will compete in Spain, Germany and Portugal in 2016, as well as having the chance to compete in Mexico.
He said: “This is another feat I didn’t think I would ever achieve, meaning I don’t have to go through the three qualifiers. I have put in a lot of work this year and, as it shows, hard work pays off, although there is still room for improvement as I have learnt a lot.
“None of this would have been possible without the support of my sponsors. As well as a demanding sport, this is an expensive sport, and actually three sports in one.
“To be able to compete against the best in the world and qualify, as I did for all four events, meant a lot of travelling to some far away destinations.
“The help I have received has allowed me to compete at these events and take a bit of the financial burden away. I am extremely grateful and I hope I have raised their profile in different arenas, both at home and abroad.”
Paul is also supported by Humberside Fire and Rescue Service, Elite Office Furniture UK Ltd in Goole and Henderson Insurance Broking Group in Hessle, as well as receiving support from Reckitt Benckiser and David Lloyd Leisure in Kingswood.
He is a member of Humber Triathletes, which has also received financial backing from the Trust, and aims to pass on his passion and enthusiasm for both triathlon and duathlon through the club, inspiring others to give the sport a try.
A total of £100,000 is available from the Neil Hudgell Trust over a 12-month period and groups and organisations making a positive contribution to their community can apply for grants of up to £5,000.
Some individuals, such as Paul, can be granted discretionary awards if their applications fall short of the Trust’s specific grant criteria, but the panel feel they are deserving of support.
Jo Hudgell, chair of the Trust, said: “We are absolutely delighted by Paul’s latest achievements.
“He is incredibly dedicated to his sport and, as a Trust, we encourage that, which is why we wanted to award him the discretionary grant. We hope Paul continues to enjoy triathlons and duathlons and wish him all the very best for his future races.”