In January Sydney’s Lionel Bonnafous walked into hospital with back pain and less than 24 hours later he had lost the use of his legs.


Diagnosed with an auto-immune condition that causes inflammation around his spinal cord, the father of one feared his triathlon days were over. However despite an unknown future, Bonnafous will be racing at IRONMAN 70.3 Western Sydney.

"When I lost the use of my legs I envisaged a scenario whereby that was going to be it and I tried to put things in perspective," Bonnafous said.

"I had been lucky to have a good health and the use of my legs for 38 years, and I could do another 40 years or so in a wheelchair. It could work, people do it all the time. I did shed a tear or two when I thought of my daughter and not being able to run, jump or play with her though."

Bonnafous has now been diagnosed with acute disseminated encephalomyelitis, a condition so rare that his doctors were not sure what would happen with his paralysis.

"As it turns out, I'm still dealing with sensation and motor deficits and hope to fully recover in the next two to three years. There's a possibility that this is a recurrent condition, which can cripple you, so fingers crossed. Time will tell and all I can do is sign up to as many races as I can."

Frustrated by some of the health issues that his condition was causing, Bonnafous decided in May to enter Western Sydney.

"I was dealing with muscle hypertension issues and had been advised by the physio not to run. I was feeling pretty frustrated and wanted to move on. Registering gave me an objective, something to look forward to, another motivation to get better. It made me more determined."

His condition has left him with a loss of stamina and he has re-evaluated his triathlon goals. He also has a greater appreciation for something many people take for granted.

"I have a better appreciation for how lucky I am living the life I have. My story is a reminder that we should all try to enjoy the moment and aim for bigger, larger, faster, and stronger. Life is too short, too precious."

Over 1,600 age group athletes will be racing at IRONMAN 70.3 Western Sydney.
The 2015 IRONMAN 70.3 Western Sydney is proudly supported by the NSW Government through its tourism and major events agency, Destination NSW.

The iconic IRONMAN® Series of events is the largest participation sports platform in the world. Since the inception of the IRONMAN® brand in 1978, athletes have proven that ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE® by crossing finish lines at the world’s most challenging endurance races. Recognized for excellence through distinguished events, world-class athletes and quality products, IRONMAN has grown from a single race to a global sensation with more than 250 events across five unique brands: IRONMAN®, IRONMAN 70.3®, 5150™ Triathlon Series, Multisport events, Iron Girl® and IRONKIDS®. For more information, visit www.ironman.com.