By Charles Wade-Palmer
A DOTING dad and his disabled daughter have smashed doctors expectations by competing in triathlons together.
Super fit Stephan Couture, 53, refuses to let daughter Chloe’s cerebral palsy and visual impairment stop her joining him swim, cycle and run at competitions nationwide – as he carried, pulls and sushes her around the gruelling courses.
Stephan and Chloe have a dedicated training regime on land and water before heart-warmingly stunning crowds in any triathlon they can get into.
Stephan said: “We had often heard the statement ‘Disabled child equals disabled family’ but we were determined not to let this become true of Chloe or ourselves.
“We’ve raced for the last five years up and down the country we’ve done lots of different events and have even helped to create one called the Superhero triathlon.
“She enjoys all of it from the running to the cycling and swimming so we just go for it and it’s easy to see from Chloe’s face how excited she gets.”
Stephan who is now spending less time as a maintenance engineer to look after Chloe, and his vicar wife Diane from Hurley, Warks adopted Chloe seven years ago.
Chloe has defied the odds to overcome her cerebral palsy and visual impairment to team up with her dad and become an active triathlete.
Stephan said: “We adopted Chloe seven years ago. Doctors warned us that she would never do this or that so we were determined to prove them wrong and she has done time and time again.
“Life’s too short not to. We go out to train almost every day and although Chloe doesn’t like the rain if it starts to pour down we won’t cancel we’ll just take it inside instead.
“If it’s raining we go to supermarkets and run round there to get our practice in. We do it so much that staff at several of our local ones know us well now.
“If dry we’ll mostly spend two hours to swim, to run and we’ll be out for four hours then running anything from an hour to two.”
Stephan has passed his thrill for sports onto daughter Chloe despite her disabilities which limit her movement.
To get Chloe safely on water for triathlons Stephan swims out in front pulling along a kayak which she sits on and on road Stephan will similarly cycle and run with Chloe sitting.
Stephan said: “We got Chloe’s racing chair especially engineered for £8,000 so we can get up to good speeds which isn’t cheap but it’s worth every penny to see her enjoyment.
“We just want to keep going for as long as we can. I’ve always been active and before Chloe I climbed peaks and completed several endurance challenges for charity.
“We quickly learned that wheelchairs are extremely limited in the places they will comfortably go.
“Stephen looked into it and bought the largest child carrier he could find that Chloe would fit into.
“The day after we bought the carrier we took a trip to Derbyshire and Stephen and Chloe climbed Thorpe in what seemed an incredibly short time.
“The idea was born that we could climb something a little more adventurous and then the idea grew into the climb becoming a fund raising event.“
“It’s no easy task to get everything of Chloe’s ready for a triathlon and to go from one event to another because it all takes a while to organise.
It is not always plain sailing for the Couture family however as many event organisers will still turn them away which Stephan says they use Chloe’s age as an excuse.
Chloe’s parents have founded the charity, Ladybugs Trust to help children and young adolescents with disabilities and varying special needs to experience life in a variety of ways.
Stephan said: “We’re raising awareness not just for Chloe’s disabilities but all children and even adults alike who aren’t fully abled who if taken outside the same four walls would get the world of good.
“We’re all about promoting inclusivity at these events and it’s fantastic to be able to get the message across in such a way.
“To see other people get excited when they see Chloe and I out there competing is amazing especially when she once wheeled herself over the finish line.
“It’s frustrating whenever we’re turned away from events and the response is often because she’s not 16-years-old but I tell the organisers that at no point is she under physical strain.
“We’re still amazed at how much she’s done.”