FIVE local athletes have proven that the sky is the limit by qualifying for a slot at the 2018 Ironman 70.3 World Championships which will be held in Nelson Mandela Bay on September 1 and 2. From previously disadvantaged backgrounds, the opportunity to reach new heights and excel is always a tough battle. However, this once in a lifetime opportunity has been grabbed with both hands by triathletes Talia Nomdoe, Zolile Mhlahlo, Justin Butler, Yaseen Abrahams and Yusuf Arendse, who will be representing the Siyaphambili Triathlon Participation Programme, a Nelson Mandela Bay-based NPO, in the world-renowned event. Nomdoe (25) is the only woman in the group. This is her first season with Siyaphambili, having joined the programme last year. She is also a full-time paramedic student at Nelson Mandela University. Her zeal to succeed has also seen her enter the Standard Bank Ironman African Championship, in April, which will be her first full-distance Ironman event. Mhlahlo (44) is another athlete who embodies the Siyaphambili “reach for the stars” attitude. After facing the major challenge of not being able to swim, his hard work and consistent drive have seen him overcome the obstacle. “Zolile turned his weakness into a strength and is now one of the fastest overall finishers in Siyaphambili. We are excited to see what he will bring to the 2018 Ironman 70.3 World Championship,” said Siyaphambili administrator, Khanyisa Bada. Abrahams (47) is in his second season with Siyaphambili and is quickly becoming a force to be reckoned with. He will be joined by Arendse (33), who has been with the programme since 2011, and has consistently been one of the top Siyaphambili athletes to cross the finish line. The last member of the team and Siyaphambili’s team coordinator and coach, Justin Butler (26), has also qualified, having joined the programme in 2012. He is an example of what one can achieve by following the programme and giving it everything. “We hope to inspire all potential PDI athletes to take the leap if they are interested in the Ironman triathlon by showing them that it is possible to achieve aspirations of this kind, despite circumstances. We also hope to create a platform for talented PDI athletes to grow and become pioneers in the sport,” he said. The programme, which started in 2005 with seven athletes, has seen a steady increase in numbers. Backed by sponsors, Siyaphambili has grown to include 30 athletes. “We highlight your weakness, work on it, and help you grow,” concluded Bada.