Colin Stollery CPA decided to enter a charity bike ride in 2018. The rise has become a regular fundraiser for him, and led to competition in the international triathlon ITU.
By Katie Langmore
By the time we hit middle age, most of us have given up on any childhood ambitions of representing Australia in an international event, but for Bundaberg’s Colin Stollery CPA, the dream has come true in his 50s.
Late last year, Stollery participated in the 2019 International Triathlon Union (ITU) Word Triathlon Grand Final in Switzerland, a competition that invites selected amateurs to race alongside elite athletes.
“Alongside the natural beauty of the course, the most memorable thing was the spectators calling, ‘Aussie, Aussie, Aussie’,” recalls Stollery, still buzzing from his achievement.
“To be wearing the green and gold for the first time at my age has just felt amazing.”
Stollery’s journey to international athlete has been relatively brief and brutal (daily training from 4.30am). It began with his 2018 participation in Queensland’s biggest charity bike ride, the 100km MS Brissie to the Bay, which raises money for MS (multiple sclerosis) Queensland.
“I heard some friends were doing it, so I signed up, even though at the time I could probably only ride 20km,” recalls Stollery. His friends pulled out, but Stollery ramped up his training until he was managing 80km on his bike, and committed to the ride.
“Raising money for multiple sclerosis felt important to me. Some years ago a friend was diagnosed with MS. At the time I didn’t have any sense of what she might go through, but the more I find out, the more I realise how devastating it can be to people’s lives,” says Stollery, who himself has autoimmune disorder Hashimoto’s disease.
Stollery continued to train – going for long bike rides along the beach – and participated in the Brissie to the Bay again in 2019 with his son, raising money through friends, family and call-outs through social media and the local paper.
“Sometimes I get to the point where I want to collapse, but you push yourself through that and there’s a great sense of achievement and endorphin rush by the end.”
Meanwhile, Stollery was increasing his triathlon training, hiring a professional coach who pushed him further than Stollery ever thought possible.
“Sometimes I get to the point where I want to collapse, but you push yourself through that and there’s a great sense of achievement and endorphin rush by the end. I’ve also had to ramp up my mental strength – even just to make myself get out of bed in the morning – and I think that’s really good for you, too.”
To be accepted into the ITU, Stollery had to compete in three events across Australia during 2019. He qualified fifth out of the 20 people allocated to represent Australia in his age group.
In September 2019, Stollery flew to Lausanne, Switzerland and, after spending a precious few days practising the course, took part in the triathlon.
Managing the 1500m swim in unusually choppy waters while others were pulled from the lake, and the steep gradients and sharp turns of the Swiss mountains on bike and foot, Stollery placed 64th out of 150 in his age group, and was proudly “the third Aussie to finish out of 17”.
When asked what’s next for the man who’s already donned the green and gold, Stollery – who also manages a full-time position as application delivery analyst at Best Practice Software and is deputy chair of the Bundaberg CPA Branch – says he’s not ready to pack in the training yet.
“I’m already planning my next triathlon,” he laughs. “And I’ll definitely keep doing the Brissie to the Bay bike ride. I’m very happy to use a skill that I have to raise money for other people.”
CPA Australia resource:
Find tools, templates and resources to support you when performing voluntary or pro bono accounting services. Access now.
The annual MS Brissie to the Bay
The Brissie to the Bay bike ride is an annual fundraising event run by MS Queensland. The event offers the choice of four distances, ranging from 10km to 100km. Over the last two decades, the charity event has become increasingly popular. In 2019, over 5000 people participated, raising over A$1 million.