French triathlete Nicolas Gracco de Lay has taken it upon himself to give something back by undertaking an incredible 25,000km journey through Africa as part of a charitable initiative, ‘Drive 4 Triathlon’.
Gracco de Lay set off in his trusty old steel-grey car in December 2011 from southwest France to embark on his expedition with the aim of promoting the sport of triathlon on the African continent and to raise money for children in need through ‘Ironman 4 the Kidz’, charity trust.
Along the way to his final destination of South Africa in April 2012, Gracco de Lay is training with the local triathletes from each country, sharing ideas on how to become a better athlete, while also working with the media to promote triathlon and sports in general.
The countries he has already visited include Morocco, Mauritania, Senegal, Mali, Burkina, Faso, Togo, Benin Republic and Nigeria and he is greatly encouraged by the support he has received so far. Arriving in Nigeria Gracco de Lay was warmly welcomed at the border before spending time with the local triathletes.
“I must say that the Nigerian Triathlon Union (NTU) is motivated and are helping their athletes because the ones I practiced with showed great spirit and I hope they will get the chance to compete more on the international stage,” said Gracco de Lay. “I am thankful to the NTU for receiving me and companies in France - Total and Wari - who have backed me since I set out. I hope at the end of it all, I would have become a shining example to many athletes around the world.”
NTU Secretary General, Gloria Obajimi believed that Gracco de Lay’s visit not only helped to promote the growing sport of triathlon within Nigeria, but also acts as a source of inspiration and encouragement for the young.
“Seeing Nicolas come all the way from France to promote triathlon in Africa will surely encourage our athletes. They were also able to train with him and he must have given them different tips to excel,” said Obajimi. “We wish him all the best as he continues his journey through Africa.”
Throughout his journey, Gracco is collecting items for auction with all proceeds going to the charity. So far he has collected an array of items including kit signed by French Olympian Frederic Belaubre and 2010 ITU Long Distance World Champion, Sylvain Sudrie as well as national football jerseys signed by 2012 CAF Africa Cup of Nations winners Zambia.
“Apart from promoting triathlon, I am passionate about the kids and I have teamed up with Ironman for the Kids to help raise money for the ones who are in need. Among other items I have the helmets of Sylvain Sudrie and Fred Belaubre for auction,” said Gracco.
To learn more about Nicolas Gracco de Lay’s ‘Drive 4 Triathlon’ please click here