Welsh paratriathlete Darren continues to fly the Welsh flag with pride after his life changed dramatically when the birth of his first child was followed three weeks later by another life-changing incident.
The 35-year-old, from Cardigan, was travelling on the back of a motorbike in April 2014 when it was involved in a road traffic collision near Gwbert.
Williams spent the next 11 months in hospital, recovering from the collision which saw him airlifted to the University Hospital of Wales in Cardiff.
“I had a list of injuries, but the spinal cord injury was the main injury,” Williams said. “It was pretty tough for me because my daughter had just been born. My partner used to bring down Leila [his daughter], and I used to feed her in my hospital bed and all the nurses would flock around because they weren’t used to seeing a newborn baby on the ward.
“Although it was really tough, at the same time it was massively motivating for me to have my first newborn child to get through those 11 months. I was a bricklayer, I was a really active person, and it just so happened that about a month after I was there a Cardiff Blues and Wales international rugby player came in called Owen Williams.
“We were in beds opposite each other so that was massive because the Welsh rugby team would often come in to see Owen and I got to know all the Wales team, the Cardiff team and that was a massive help. I think that really inspired me to get through where I was.”
Williams was introduced to paratriathlon by a friend and took part in his first swim, bike, run event in May 2017.
After spending 18 months away from the sport due to surgery and the birth of his second child, Williams now races in the British Triathlon Paratri Super Series, which is open to both classified and non-classified paratriathletes.
“I spend a lot of time doing triathlons at able-bodied events,” Williams said. “Now I’m racing in the Paratri Super Series I really enjoy that, and I like being a part of it. There are some really top athletes in the wheelchair category.
“I have met so many people from different backgrounds, so many different stories, but everyone there is giving it their best. I knew straight away I wouldn’t play football again, but being at the events there’s a sense of camaraderie which I used to have in the footballing changing room and I have got that back.”
2022 was his best season to date including securing victory in the men’s PTWC in the British Triathlon Paratri Super Series at the first World Triathlon Para Series Swansea which saw thousands of spectators cheer on the world’s best paratriathletes in the city.
This year’s event will come just a week before he gets married only a few miles from the race route, and Williams is looking forward to taking to the Swansea start line again when the event returns on July 15.
“For me that’s my best day in triathlon,” Williams said. “The fact it was in Swansea made it for me. It was fantastic and I’m smiling now thinking about it because on home turf to have an event like that and to finish my race and then watch the World Series race was fantastic.
“It was really enjoyable, and I really can’t wait for this year, especially to have this sort of event in Swansea again is amazing. The day after was the Swansea half IRONMAN so Swansea in general that weekend was absolutely buzzing.
“This year is a bit busy with the Swansea event on the July 15, then I get married the week after in Swansea on the Gower, but there’s no way that I’m not doing Swansea.
Williams has ambitions to represent Wales at the 2026 Commonwealth Games – if his classification is included in the event programme for the multisport event in Victoria, Australia – and he’s proud to be able to fly the Wales flag at events around the UK including in Swansea.
“I absolutely love Wales,” Williams said. “I’m a proud Welshman. What I love about Wales is that we’re a massively passionate country, we have got a huge sense of national pride. Our national anthem is one of the best in the world and I’m not just saying that as a Welshman, I’ve heard lots of people say the same. It gets the hairs raised on the arms and goosebumps. It gets me every time.
“Cardiff is fantastic, Swansea is a great city, and we’ve got some great beaches, some lovely places to go, but if I had to pick what I like the most then I think it’s got to be all the beaches.”
World Triathlon Para Series Swansea returns to South Wales on July 15 when the sweeping waterfront of Swansea Bay will again provide a stunning setting for the weekend’s elite sporting action and for spectators.