Paralysed triathlete Chris Khouri finds hope in competition

DUBAI // Two years ago, a motorcycle accident left Chris Khouri paralysed from the chest down.
But it also left him with a need to push himself competitively.
"I think it was mostly a matter of sheer survival," the Lebanese-Dutchman, 39, says. "When you have a third of your body left, you realise you have no choice, that you have to maintain whatever is left."
Mr Khouri took up sport as part of his rehabilitation. In January, he was the only disabled athlete to compete in the Tri Yas triathlon at Yas Marina Circuit.
"When you become disabled there is a moment when you feel you will never be able to do anything any more, and you are pretty much useless to the world and society - even yourself," he says.
"That all changes when you see that step by step, you can achieve things. That's what sport did for me. It gave me hope and the will to live and to want to do more."
Training for triathlons enabled Mr Khouri to regain his self-worth. By pushing himself physically, he was also able to push and strengthen his emotional and mental state, he says.
"Sport is often done in groups so there is also the sharing element and the feelings of companionship, which erase any loneliness," he says.
"Suddenly you find that you have something to offer, because you are now one year into living with your handicap but there is someone who has been living with it for just six months and needs your help."
Mr Khouri is training for his next triathlon. In January, he "ran" in his wheelchair and cycled on a specially made bike that allowed him to pedal with his hands. But he left the swimming to his teammate.
"Now I've started serious swimming because I want to take part in a triathlon properly, and pushing myself keeps me going," he says.
"I am doing a lot more biking than before and I want to take part in a tough race in Alaska next summer."
The outlook, Mr Khouri says, is good and he hopes for a decent season. His training, his job in networking and information technology, and his wife and two children fill his days.
"There's no time for me to feel sorry for myself," he says.
* Hala Khalaf

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