A MAN from Dursley wants to turn semi-professional after qualifying for the Ironman 70.3 World Championships in his first race over that distance.

Tom Ward, 35, is heading to Las Vegas in September after finishing 12th in his 35-19 age group, 33 seconds inside the required time at the gruelling UK 70.3 Ironman triathlon at Wimbleball Lake in Exmoor last month.

The 35-year-old only began training for triathlon competition 12 months ago after retiring from playing hockey for Cheltenham in the National Hockey League West Conference.

He was a member of Dursley Dolphins in his teenage years and continued swimming at the pool until moving to Cheltenham two years ago. He has completed half marathons and is a passionate mountain biker, but never competed in a triathlon until he entered the Lanzarote Ironman earlier this year, which is a 140.6 mile race from sunrise to sunset across varying terrain.

Ward, who used to be the branch manager at the Lloyds TSB in Dursley, completed the 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile cycle, and 26.2 mile run in 11 hours, seven minutes.

It was also his first attempt at running any marathon distance and his split time was an impressive 3:30.

After securing a last minute place at the UK Ironman 70.3 he raced against many elite triathletes and completed the course in 5:14.27.

Ward said: “I am overwhelmed with what I have achieved in such a short space of time. Ironman and Ironman 70.3 are inspirational races to be involved in. “Each and every athlete that crosses that finish line is part of an elite few. I admire each and everyone.

“I could not have achieved what I have without the support of those around me.”

Training for ironman takes a lot of dedication and Ward wakes up at 5.45am most mornings to either fit in a swimming session or cycle 25 miles to work in Malvern before ending his rigorous day with either another 25-mile cycle home or a minimum ten-mile run.

The former Rednock School pupil is hoping to improve his time further on a faster course at the World Championships and has set his sights on winning his age category at the Ironman 70.3 UK in 2013, before becoming semi-professional by the end of that year.

Ward is currently self-funded but is actively looking for sponsors to support his progress.

Anyone interested can contact him on 07747 625406 or email emilyktrotman@aol.com