Bill Chaffey

– Paratriathlete –

“Have a goal, have a plan and follow it. Don’t listen to those who say you can’t”

Bill Chaffey lives in the Gold Coast of Australia with his wife Vanessa and two daughters Heidi and Amity. He began as a 25-year-old age group triathlete in 2001 and raced over all distances. In December 2004, in Canberra, he qualified for the 2005 Australian Ironman championship to be held in Forster on April 3, 2005. While training for this event on March 29th of that same year, he was hit from behind by a truck while cycling in a designated cycle lane beside the Pacific Highway in northern New South Wales. As a result, he suffered four broken vertebrae with spinal cord damage at L1, an open book pelvic fracture (meaning his pelvis was broken completely in half), both his elbows were compound fractured, and he had serious internal injuries. He was hospitalized and operated on, with rods inserted to reconnect his spine to his pelvis. He had an external fixation to put his pelvis back together, and eight screws used into each elbow. As a result, he lost consciousness for a week and spent the next five months in the hospital recovering.

After leaving the hospital, he wanted to stay fit, so he began swimming. Eventually, Bill decided to return to triathlons as a wheelchair athlete, and in 2008, he competed in the Gold Coast Half Ironman, and was the first wheelchair athlete to do so. The following year in 2009, he raced and won his first ITU World Championship on the Gold Coast in Australia held over the Olympic distance. He continued to race the ITU world championships each year, now held over the sprint distance, and he finished in 2nd place in Budapest in 2010. The next three years in a row, he won the World Championships held in Beijing, Auckland, and London.

Bill always wanted to complete an Ironman triathlon event. In 2005, he participated on his first long distance triathlon. In 2012, he raced and won the Cairns Ironman as a wheelchair athlete. In 2013, Geoff Meyer, the CEO of Ironman Asia Pacific made Ironman Cairns a qualifying event for wheelchair athletes to compete in the Ironman World Championships in Hawaii. He then returned to Cairns in 2013, raced and won; thereby, earning a qualifying spot for the World Championship in Hawaii. He competed in the Ironman World Championships in Kuala Kona Hawaii and placed 2nd in a time of 9hrs 30min.

In 2011, after winning the ITU World Championship in Beijing, he was accepted into the Australian Institute of Sport triathlon program, being the first Paratriathlete in the program. He was also accepted into the Queensland Academy of Sport. Bill Chaffey is now training under the QAS head coach, Stephen Moss, and working toward the 2016 Paralympics to be held in Brazil where the triathlon will make its debut. He is not really an individual athlete. He has two friends who have been with him the whole way through this journey, Darren and Luke. They follow him around the world to help him in all his races. They carry him from the water to the bike; they help him in and out of the bike and race chair; they help with all the equipment transport around the world; they are an integral part of his team and Bill couldn’t race without them.

Bill loves triathlons and he loves to compete as well. He has never competed to come second. Whether it’s a local club race, a casual race with friends or a World Championship, he goes out there to win. Every second of his training is focused to make him win the day of the race. “After a hard week of training, relaxing time spent with my wife Vanessa and my kids is still the best part of my week,” Bill says.

Bill in his own words

How does it feel to be an inspiration to others? Did you ever expect to become an inspiration?

As I said before, it is difficult to understand that others see me as an inspiration. It is humbling. I don’t see myself as anything special. I’m just someone chasing my goals. If people do get inspired by my achievements, then I am happy about that. I hope as a result they can achieve what they want.

Why are Triathlons so inspiring? What makes this sport so special around the world?

I remember as an age group athlete before my injury when I’d tell people I do triathlons, they’d be shocked and think I was mad. It was seen as a sport only masochists took part in. I think it’s a sport anyone can do as long as they believe they can. People of all shapes, age and ability are seen racing as age groupers throughout the world. I’m inspired myself when I see these people racing. It’s a mental sport. Seeing people physically push themselves beyond their pre conceived beliefs inspires me.

When did you start participating in triathlons? Where was your first competition?

My first race was a club event with Tweed Valley Triathletes in January 2001. It is a 500m/10km/4km race which is held every weekend in summer in Murwillumbah NSW. My first race as a wheelchair athletes as the 2008 Gold Coast Half Ironman.

What motivates you in life?

In life, I’m motivated by people having a go at something, anything. Nothing frustrates me more than people who give up. I started triathlons for fun, to keep fit and challenge myself. I just want to see how far I can push myself and then how much further I can go. I just want to be better and then better again.

What would you say to other people with similar ambitions?

Have a goal, have a plan follow it. Don’t listen to those who say you can’t.

Who inspires you? Why?

Many people inspire me. I like seeing kids achieve their goals. I get inspired when I see athletes in whatever sport pushing themselves so hard to achieve. More than anything I’m inspired by passionate people, regardless of their passion. I love it when people truly believe in their cause. Lleyton Hewitt, Steve Irwin, Corporal Ben Robert Smith.

How did you deal with obstacles in your life?

I don’t don’t concentrate on the obstacle. I focus on what’s beyond it. If I want something I’ll do anything to get it.

What do you like most about Triathlons?

The challenge, the pain, the burn, the sweat, the exhaustion, and the exhilaration of overcoming all that.

Mention major accomplishments in your life other than triathlons

The happy life I have with my two girls, Heidi, Amity and my wife Vanessa. Surviving being hit by a truck at 100km/h.

Do you support or represent any Non-Profit Organizations? 

Not at this time.