PAMELA Fulton has literally lived all her life on the triathlon track, first as an athlete and later as a development coach.
To cap off her fine career, Fulton has now scaled to the top of her sport after her recent elevation to the post of Triathlon Zimbabwe (TZ) vice-chairperson.
Fulton’s dedication and commitment to triathlon saw her being selected to take part in the inaugural Women’s Sport Leadership Academy (Wsla) at the University of Hertfordshire in England last November.
Unfortunately for her, disaster struck mid-way through her English jaunt after the untimely death of her mother, Daphne Chalmers (80), here in Zimbabwe.
As a result, Fulton had to cut short her trip and return to Zimbabwe to be close to her family during the difficult times.
“This was an absolute high for me, but tragically my mom passed away half way through the course and I had to return home,” Fulton told the Daily News on Sunday.
“WSLA have been exceptional in their support, they immediately assigned me a mentor to take me through the missed sessions which I completed a while ago.
“Once the course was complete everyone was assigned a mentor and we meet monthly so we are always assisted if any issues arise.
“As part of the course I have also been assigned an ITU sport specific mentor and am about to start working with him, which is really exciting. Triathlon has had so many more highs than lows for me.
“I guess a couple of lows are having to have a knee operation which still plagues me and subsequently has prevented me from running.
“Also mom’s passing during a very special moment in my life was a low, but thanks to the support from everyone around me in my life, I have managed to get back on track and continue with my plans.”
Fulton’s journey to becoming a respectable triathlon coach was born out of a solid base in which she has been a leading athlete in Zimbabwe and Africa.
“I competed competitively at the top level in Africa for 13 years. I was fortunate enough to have many experiences and opportunities whilst racing,” she said.
“As soon as I stopped competing competitively, it was time to give back to the sport I loved so much and I started coaching. I did a level 1 course some 15 years ago but was only given the opportunity to do my ITU Level 2 coaches course in 2017.”
Being married to Rick, a former TZ president, meant Fulton had to be a perfectionist in her sporting conduct.
This, however, has helped her as she is now slowly moving into leadership roles within TZ.
“Rick has been a huge support and influence in my triathlon career. For many years we were training partners for almost every session we did,” she said.
“We swam side by side, kilometre after kilometre, I tried to hang onto his back wheel on the bike for many kms, and I tried to keep him in my sights on the run. Now that I’m coaching we hardly seem to do any sessions together.
“Whilst Rick was president of the sport year after year, I was so absorbed in my coaching and totally trusted and didn’t query decisions his board made.
“It was five years ago that I became interested in the way triathlon was developing. It worried me that we were not attracting the teenage category to our sport. I asked Rick and his board if a development role could be introduced and if I could run with it?
“Since then I have shown constant interest in the way triathlon has been organised and led. Rick has always been very transparent, showing me no favours, in fact at times probably being even more critical. It is encouraging for me to know that he is always there to assist and bounce ideas off.”
Fulton’s desire is to see the sport continuing to blossom, creating new avenues and career pathways for upcoming and established triathletes.
“At this stage in my triathlon career, all I want is to see our sport growing in popularity by seeing the numbers grow, spreading provincially, supporting Zimbabwean triathletes so they can hopefully qualify and compete at Paris 2024 onwards whilst still maintaining our reputation of being a well-managed association,” she said.
“At this stage I’m quite content being a part of the management team adding value wherever I can.”
With such an illustrious and storied journey in triathlon, Fulton is proud of the path she has walked.
“I’ve been fortunate to experience many highs in my triathlon career. A couple that come to mind from my racing days were firstly when I became an Ironman by completing the 2001 Cape Town Ironman, placing third in my category,” she said.
“Another memorable moment was when I came out of retirement eight years later and represented Zimbabwe at the age of 40 at the 2011 Maputo Africa Games, finishing sixth.
“There are so many highs from my coaching career but a few of them include being nominated to accompany the Zimbabwean triathletes to the Youth Olympic Games in Nanjing, China. What an amazing experience the Olympics are.
“Being with the team at the 2019 Africa Games where our ladies won silver and bronze was a very exciting moment. Travelling on from the Africa Games, accompanying Andie Kuipers to the grand finale, Lausanne, Switzerland where she had qualified to compete in the elite U19 category, was a special moment for us both.
“Witnessing our team of juniors win silver in the senior mixed team relay event at the 2019 Africa Championships was one of the most exciting events I’ve ever seen. There are so many highs to choose from.”