Poppy's Triathlon Challenge


On 26th June 2016 Poppy Jones and her dad Rob, from Abergavenny, will take part in the Cardiff Triathlon together to raise money for West Wales based children’s charity Cerebra. But they will face an additional challenge – ten year old Poppy has cerebral palsy and Rob will be pushing/pulling her around the course using custom made equipment specially designed by a design team from the Cerebra Innovation Centre – a partnership between the charity and the University of Wales Trinity Saint David.

Ten year old Poppy was born with quadriplegic cerebral palsy and chronic lung disease. She can’t sit, stand, roll or support herself and life is a daily challenge for her. She has suffered many health problems over the years and there have been times when doctors didn’t think she would pull through. Dad Rob explains “there have been times when it has been very touch and go and we feel very lucky that she has been with us for the last 10 years”.

But having a life-limiting condition doesn’t stop Poppy having fun. Poppy is a determined character with a great sense of humour. Her sense of adventure knows no bounds. She is a real thrill seeker and adrenaline junkie and has a true competitive spirit.

Rob, meanwhile is facing a challenge of his own in getting fit for the event. He’s never taken part in a triathlon before and isn’t a regular swimmer, runner or cyclist. At Christmas he could only manage two lengths of the local swimming pool and is using his ancient bicycle to train.

Mum Rachel, along with the rest of the family and friends, are right behind Poppy and Rob and are fully supporting them all the way, providing all the back-up and help they need. Rob’s motivation for doing this is simply to help his daughter: “taking part in this triathlon is so exciting for her and psychologically it will really benefit her. She gets so frustrated at the limits her condition puts on her and this will really focus her mind on what she can do. Poppy doesn’t think ‘I can’t’ but rather ‘with a little help I can’. I’ve got my work cut out though as Poppy doesn’t want to just take part – she wants to win!”

The project is also a huge challenge for Cerebra’s Innovation Centre who are designing and making the equipment that Rob and Poppy will need to take them to the finish line.  Having seen one of CIC’s recent projects, Rob realised what it was possible to achieve with a little help and decided to set the charity the challenge of designing, engineering and manufacturing three unique sporting products.

In principle the plan sounded quite easy for the design team - Poppy and Rob need a chair on wheels and a boat. But Poppy wants to win! So they need a chair on wheels with suspension, every ergonomic issue addressed and resolved, it must roll well and true and must be comfortable for both users. It must be light, stiff yet comfortable. The “boat” will be a unique design, sleek, slender and with the least hydrodynamic resistance possible, yet it must also be stable, strong - and unsinkable! Engineering will be one of the biggest challenges, but the team have lots of friends who have already offered lots of help. They will be collaborating with V-Track seating systems, Loop Wheels, J.D.Marine for welding, and have been offered significant design advice by naval architect Richard Pemberton from Falmouth. Oh – and as Poppy’s favourite colour is yellow, that’s what it’s going to be!

Dr Ross Head, Product Design Manager at the Cerebra Innovation Centre based at the University of Wales Trinity Saint David in Swansea, explains “It’s wonderful to have the opportunity to be a part of this challenge. It is incredibly humbling to be around someone like Poppy- she is bright, bubbly, smiles all the time, she doesn’t complain about her situation, she just gets on and makes the best of every situation. When we met with Rob he was very emotional at the level of support and enthusiasm we showed towards them. But it is the same for us, to be able to help them achieve this impressive task really will be a moment to remember”.

The University of Wales Trinity Saint David, who are project partners in CIC, are also fully supporting Rob and Poppy’s challenge. The University’s renowned health and sports specialists have also been giving advice to Rob and Poppy on their training programme. 

“The Wales Institute for Physical Literacy at UWTSD is delighted to support Rob and Poppy in this exciting venture,” says Dr Nalda Wainwright, Director of the University’s Wales Institute for Physical Literacy.  

“Our highly experienced staff from University’s High Performance Laboratory work with athletes of all levels from first time competitors to elite, world class performers.  Dr Peter Herbert and Dave Gardener have put Rob through his paces and are continuing to ensure that he will have the right preparation. Although the triathlon they have entered is a short race the added work of pulling and pushing Poppy and the specialised equipment made by the Cerebra Innovation Centre will be quite considerable and brings additional challenges to the already tough combination of three disciplines in a single event,” continues Nalda.

Welsh Triathlon and organisers of the Cardiff event, Always Aim High, are also fully supportive of Poppy and Rob’s challenge. Amy Jenner from Wales Triathlon said “'Welsh Triathlon are committed to making sure everyone can achieve their Triathlon challenge. This is a dual challenge - both Rob’s amazing physical challenge and Poppy's determination to experience life at its full. The Cerebra team designing the special equipment, the race organisers Always Aim High, and the support crew, have worked wonderfully together to make Poppy and Rob's dreams come alive as well as raise money for charity Cerebra and other brain injured children'.

The pair will be raising money for Cerebra, a national charity based in Carmarthen whose aim is to help families who have children with a brain condition to find a better life together. For more information visit www.cerebra.org.uk. If you would like to support Rob and Poppy please visit www.justgiving.com/Rob-Jones42

Note to Editor


Cerebra is a national charity giving families who have children with brain conditions the chance to find a better life together. The charity sponsors research and provides wide ranging support services to help families overcome the challenges they may encounter. The find out more visit www.cerebra.org.uk

The Cerebra Innovation Centre (CIC) is a collaborative project between Cerebra and the University of Wales Trinity St David Swansea (UWTSD). CIC offers a bespoke product design service to families who have children with a brain condition across the UK. Products include mobility and communication aids, products to enable IT access, supportive seating writing and drawing aids, and adaptions to existing products. All products are designed or modified ensure that the child is included and that social stigma is reduced as far as possible.

For more information about Cerebra visit: www.cerebra.org.uk

Further Information

Sian-Elin Davies / 01267 676908 / 07449 998476 / Sian-elin.davies@uwtsd.ac.uk