In 2015, Songo Fipaza completed his first Ironman Triathlon only six months after learning to swim.
Fipaza, from Kayamandi near Stellenbosch, overcame incredible odds to nail the tough 3.8km ocean leg of the African Ironman Championships well inside the time limit while also completing the 180km cycle ride and the 42km full marathon run.
In 2016, Fipaza wants to go one big step better and complete both the half and the full African Ironman Championships in the same year.
The half, known as the Ironman 70.3, takes place in East London on 24 January with a 1.9km swim, 90 km cycle ride and 21.5km half marathon, and then Fipaza plans to double up on everything and take on the full Ironman in Port Elizabeth on 10 April.
“After Songo’s decision to tackle both 70.3 East London & Ironman SA this year, his training has gone from strength to strength and he is so much more confident in the water. Ultimately Songo would like to qualify for the Ironman World Championship in Kailua-Kona, Hawai`i, so we have a few big training years ahead of us – but he is an extremely talented athlete so I have no doubt he will achieve his goals. Songo works hard in his training and this will transfer to a successful race in a few days’ time and then the last big push before the big one in April!” says Claire Horner, Virgin Active brand ambassador and owner of My Training Day Triathlon School.
Fipaza was a very competitive runner and cyclist before setting himself the goal of competing an Ironman, but the obvious barrier was that he did not know how to float let alone completing an exhausting ocean swim.
Horner introduced Fipaza to swimming coach Brett Wood and together they put in long hours to get him from being a complete novice in the water to the point where he had both the physical and mental capabilities to conquer the water. “Last year I was very worried about the swim and wasn’t sure I was going to finish. Thanks to my team and Virgin Active, I can now just focus on the race and the training – I have put a lot of my energy into the swimming training so I can improve my times this year. Something close to my heart though, is to raise awareness about the need for a swimming pool for the youth in my community, Kayamandi”, shared Fipaza on his next goal.
Fipaza also has the energy after all his training to help uplift his hometown community of Kayamandi through an intensive programme which gives kids amazing opportunities to get active and to be healthy. His own challenges have shaped him to be a great mentor and an inspirational champion. F
or more on Songo Fipaza’s story and to follow his journey see www.songo.info.