After David Bryant’s first Ironman race, at Busselton about three hours south of where he lives in Western Australia, he posted on Facebook about the nutrition he used to get through the nearly 10-hour epic.
Within a day, the post received 30,000 likes and launched Bryant’s ‘other’ career.
“It was just a simple post but it spread like wildfire and, as it turned out, it really grew my business as a sports dietician,” said Bryant, who will make his Paralympic debut in the PTS5 Para-triathlon at Odaiba Marine Park on Sunday.
“Since then, over the past four or five years, I’ve been helping out people online with sports nutrition plans all over the world. I’m really lucky that what I do as an athlete also complements my other working life.”
Across those four or five years, Bryant’s triathlon career has also taken some unexpected turns.
In his teens, Bryant had started running as a means of rehabilitation after an operation to address a growing disparity in the length of his legs.
“I was born with clubfoot and over the years my left leg – my stronger leg – developed a lot more than my right,” he said.
“When I was about 15, they realised the disparity was becoming too apparent. We operated on my left leg to stop the growth from becoming any more pronounced. But I’ve got about an inch leg length difference now, a three-size shoe difference and 17 percent difference in muscle mass.
“I just started doing 20 minute jogs for rehab and those jogs turned into 20k half marathons on the Gold Coast.
“After school I moved to Perth and didn’t really know anyone, so I kind of kept running. Perth’s got a really big triathlon scene which I slowly got into and started meeting new friends and enjoying it.”
At the same time, Bryant was studying for what eventually became a Master of Nutrition and became interested particularly in how he could apply his knowledge to his sport.
An Ironman or two later – and with Para-triathlon having been added to the Paralympic program for Rio 2016 – Triathlon Australia approached Bryant to see if he was keen to get classified and see what he could achieve.
However, because it was the first time triathlon was included, “there was still a bit of grey area around the classification system”, Bryant said, and his initial classification was later rescinded.
“I actually flew over to Spain in the hope of being reclassified and doing a race there at the same time,” he said. “They did all the points tally and various testing and I missed out by two percent according to the system.
“While it was disappointing, I didn’t have all my eggs in one basket, I also had my dietician work and I was always going to keep on doing triathlon because I just enjoy it. After those first Games with triathlon, the classification system became a bit more precise and they added another class, PTS5, which is where I fitted in.”
Getting used to the shorter distances took some time, but pretty soon he was among the best in the world in his class. Luckily for the 32-year-old, when the Covid pandemic began, he had enough points to ensure he stayed in the top 10 until the Tokyo Games, qualifying him for a place.
“Hopefully there’s a bit of an element of surprise on race day because everyone has raced in the last six or so months, except for me,” he said. “We raced here two years ago and I took a lot away from it. Since then I’ve been using the heat chamber at the WA Institute of Sport. They’ve been cranking it up to 35 degrees, 90 percent humidity with a feel-like temp of about 50 degrees, so if I’m not heat acclimatised now, I’ll never be.”
Sadly for Bryant, he won’t be able to get out and sample the local cuisine while in Tokyo, as Australian Paralympic Team safety measures for these Games have meant the Team has been eating in-house. But, in the future, there will almost come a time when Bryant’s nutrition posts and love of triathlon will again come together.
“Pre-Covid, when I was travelling around the world competing, I’d always do a post-race nutrition report just telling how I’d fit food into my day, which is really important particularly when you’re travelling and going between different cultures,” he said.
“It generates good interest. Hopefully I can start doing it again soon.”