Meet the amazing Leamington professor who is a British triathlon champion at the age of 81

Professor Nigel Dimmock of Warwick University did not even take up triathlons until he was in his 60s and has also recently discovered an anti-viral drug which can work against Covid-19

Monday, 14th June 2021, 2:00 pm
Professor Nigel Dimmock has just become British Olympic Distance Triathlon Champion in the over 80s age group at the age of 81.
Professor Nigel Dimmock has just become British Olympic Distance Triathlon Champion in the over 80s age group at the age of 81.

At an age when people are usually taking life easy and an occasional stroll is the most exercise they get, one remarkable Leamington octogenarian is still competing in gruelling triathlons.

Professor Nigel Dimmock has just become British Olympic Distance Triathlon Champion in the over 80s age group.

At the age of 81, he is still thoroughly enjoying the combined swimming, cycling and running endurance competitions and the six days a week he trains for them.

Professor Nigel Dimmock has just become British Olympic Distance Triathlon Champion in the over 80s age group at the age of 81.

More remarkably still, Nigel didn’t even take up triathlons until he was in his 60s and semi-retired in his position as professor of virology at Warwick University.

“I was always a runner and could cycle okay, but I was not a good swimmer, and really had to learn from scratch,” he said.

But Nigel was determined to give triathlons a go and for a 60th retirement present from colleagues at the university, he asked for a wetsuit.

Then came the swimming lessons, and by the age of 63 he had progressed to front crawl and was ready for his first sprint triathlon – so called because the distances are shorter.

Professor Nigel Dimmock has just become British Olympic Distance Triathlon Champion in the over 80s age group at the age of 81. Ben Compton Photography.

“I still wasn’t a very good swimmer and my wife and other spectators were very concerned I might drown,” he said.

“We were swimming 400 metres in a pool and no one thought I would make it to the end.”

But training and perseverance paid off and Nigel eventually progressed to compete in full triathlons which included swimming in open water for 1,500 metres.

“That can be a bit hazardous,” he says.

Professor Nigel Dimmock (right) has just become British Olympic Distance Triathlon Champion in the over 80s age group at the age of 81.

“People are bumping and barging into each other in the water and that was very unnerving when I was first competing in open water.

"I’m still not a really good swimmer and it’s a bit galling when people in the following wave catch up and overtake me.”

After the swimming it’s a run to the bike, stripping off the wetsuit and cycling 40 kilometres, then discarding the bike and running ten kilometres to the finish of the race.

Nigel’s hobby has taken him to competitions all over the world, including Canada, Australia, Hungary, Estonia, Mexico, Portugal, Holland and Switzerland.

Professor Nigel Dimmock (right) has just become British Olympic Distance Triathlon Champion in the over 80s age group at the age of 81.

He was third in Mexico in 2016 in the World Championships in the 75-79 age group, and European Champion in Lisbon. And earlier this month he was the oldest competitor at the British Championships in Leeds.

“I was in the 80-84 men’s age group and the only person competing in it – so I won the title! But you’re alongside younger athletes – I started the race with all the over 65s, so I was unofficially competing against them really.”

His time for the race was three hours 27 minutes 25 secs, beating people in younger categories.

Nigel says the training he puts himself through every week is as important to him as the competitions.

“You have to train continuously, otherwise you lose fitness. I usually train six days a week, two days for each discipline - one hour sessions for swimming and running, and for a total of five hours on the bike.

I have to travel quite a way to find open water for swimming. At the moment I’m going to a quarry near Tamworth for summer training and in the winter I use the Newbold Comyn pool.

“It’s a big commitment and you have to be really dedicated. I’m still finding the training and competing very enjoyable – although a day off from training is rather nice!”

So far, Nigel has competed in more than 80 triathlons – always supported by his wife Elizabeth who drives him to UK events.

“She’s my logistics manager and supporter, so I can concentrate on the competitions,” he says.

“She is the lynch pin of Team Dimmock.”

Nigel has studied viruses all his working life and is now emeritus professor at Warwick University and since retiring has discovered an anti-viral drug which he is very excited about.

“It’s a nasal spray which works for all respiratory viruses including Covid 19.

I developed it with a university colleague but unfortunately our financial backers pulled out early last year and we have been unable to go ahead with clinical trials.

“It’s a great shame because I am sure it could have made a huge difference to the Covid situation and treating people in hospitals and care homes. But everything has been put on ice until we find new backers.”

So to vent the frustration about his antiviral development, Nigel continues to pour his energy into his endurance races.

And he has no intention of packing up his wetsuit and running shoes yet.

“I will go on until my body decides it’s had enough,” he said.

“But I hope I have proved that you’re never too old to take up a sport like triathlon – and to enjoy it into a good age.”