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Pepe Candón, the triathlete who competes without looking

Sport was not always the first thing in the life of José Manuel Pepe Candón (Medina Sidonia, 45 years old). There was a time when he served as a lieutenant in the Marine Corps, specialized in deactivating explosives, but those days are behind him after, on a fateful day in 2011, he lost five colleagues in an accident while preparing for a mission in Lebanon. . He himself was seriously affected with burns, partial deafness, the loss of one eye and 15% of vision in the other. Permanent sequelae that have not diminished a mental strength that he now uses in the world of triathlon.

Before the accident, Candón, who has lived in Chiclana de la Frontera (Cádiz) for years, practiced mountain biking as a hobby. “A comrade from the barracks suggested that I continue riding my bicycle. He offered to help me for a ride in a tandem. I started dating like that between 2013 and 2014 ″, recalls the ex-military man. After a while he was encouraged to participate in mountain biking competitions, but the refusal of the Spanish Cycling Federation to let in a person with visual impairment stopped him cold.

“Here in Cádiz there is a triathlon club and some colleagues from the barracks were signed up. They told me that since they wouldn't let me compete on the mountain bike, to try the triathlon ”, explains Candón. That was exactly what he did, but once again he was met with a “no.” This time, from the Spanish Triathlon Federation (FETRI) when competing. Determined to prove that he was worth participating despite its consequences, he took on an even more difficult challenge: the XTerra Triathlon tests.

In this endeavor he has never been alone. There have been three guides who have accompanied him over the years, although it was with the current one, Jonathan Macías (45 years old, Chiclana de la Frontera), who won the championship up to two times -the last one on December 5, 2021. of the XTerra world. He remembers well the moment when he began his journey with Candón. “In 2018, when his previous guide could not continue due to work issues, Pepe asked me if I knew of a large triathlete with experience to be a guide. I told him that that someone was me, “says Macías.

Pepe's partner and friend is his great support in all the tests. “Before the competition, I help him put all the things together. In swimming we are held by an elastic rope on the legs and I guide him where he has to go. In the tandem, I have to warn of sudden changes in direction, potholes and shocks so that he waits for them ”, sums up Macías. This dynamic has helped them to gather an entire track record and currently the Federation does allow them to compete at the national level. However, the international arena is still inaccessible to them.

Candón is greatly frustrated by the limitations they place on them. “Everyone knows our problems, but internationally no one makes a move. So much talk about integration, inclusion and adapted sport so that later they close the doors and don't let me participate. In addition, the federation's cross triathlon events are a third shorter than those of XTerra. I'm doing three times the distance ”, he explains.

The comparison speaks for itself: while normal championships involve 500 meters swimming, 12 kilometers cycling and three running, the XTerra are 1500 meters swimming, 32 cycling and 10 running. That Candón and Macías can compete in the XTerra World Cups and not in other international tournaments is reduced to a simple matter of regulations. The current objective of Candón and Macías is to allow them to enter the 2022 European Championship that will take place in Bilbao.

Apart from the strictly sports, the ex-military considers that this year has been especially uphill. The case investigating the accident suffered by Candón and his colleagues was reopened. They accused him of being responsible. “You are preparing a season and suddenly they ask you for six years in prison and a two million euro fine. It's something that rips you apart and ripped my family apart. Thank God, the first resolutions in our favor came quite quickly ”, he comments.

Getting to finance the annual budget, which for them is around 21,000 euros, is also a great difficulty. “Triathlon is a very expensive sport. We live at the expense of public subsidies and sponsors. You have to be constantly knocking on the doors of others, insisting and selling your product, ”says Candón. But regardless of all the slopes, potholes and curves that appear in his way, the ex-military man does not throw in the towel. This is how Macías assures it: “His main strength and weakness is how stubborn he is. He proposes something and until he gets it he doesn't stop. ”

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