Parasites wreck triathlete’s year

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A top Queenstown triathlete whose ambitions went on hold after a debilitating illness is easing her way back to competition. 

Tanya Dromgool’s past six months were wrecked by intestinal parasites but she’s back testing the waters of competition. 

In January she ran the 12km Race The Train alongside the historic steam engine the Kingston Flyer – she finished second-fastest female and also cycled from Queenstown to Kingston and back for extra training.
On Saturday she’ll compete in a local women’s triathlon – the first race she entered after moving to Queenstown two years ago. 

The 26-year-old ended up with the parasites after drinking contaminated water while training and racing for a German triathlon team in August last year. 

“I was pretty dehydrated and just not thinking,” she says. 

Dromgool was in the semi-professional team after posting good results the previous New Zealand summer including a fourth placing in a national series race and an unbeaten run in the Southern Tri Series. 

Despite spewing after training sessions, she competed a month later in the International Triathlon Union World Championships in Beijing, winning gold for her age group in the aquathon and bronze in the triathlon. 

After initially thinking she had giardia, tests back in Queenstown confirmed she had three or four gastro-intestinal parasites inside her. 

“I knew something wasn’t right when I couldn’t even walk up the stairs at work, I had to stop and rest halfway.” 

Symptoms include lethargy, stomach cramps, vomiting and diarrhoea. 

Sometimes she could only work a day or two a week. 

“It’s soul-destroying, really. 

“I can’t keep my heart-rate up enough to race and if I go too hard for too many days, I’ll just crash. 

“I avoided events for a while because it was just making me depressed, when it’s kind of your life – and I hated having to keep explaining it to people, but I’m over that now.” 

Of this weekend’s women’s triathlon, Dromgool says: “I won’t be competing to win, I’ll be competing to have fun.” 

Originally, Dromgool planned to race hard this summer, return to Germany during our winter and turn pro. 

“I’ve had to pretty much cancel everything. I just feel bad because so many people support me in town – I feel like I’ve just dropped off the radar,” she says. 

Dromgool endured three rounds of antibiotics but is now resigned to waiting till the parasites completely quit her body. 

“I hope I’ll be back into it for next summer, then hopefully go to Europe again after that. 

“In endurance sport, you can keep going into your 30s, so that’s a positive. It just makes me re-evaluate everything – sport is important, but if you don’t have your health you can’t do it.”