‘Melanie Ryding – one inspirational lady’ (Challenge Wanaka 2021 Mailshot 20/1/21)

Thank you Challenge Wanaka and TriNZ for your support going into my first race as a para-athlete, just over 3 months after losing my left leg below the knee. Here is the Challenge Wanaka mail shot sent to all competitors today.

Integrity Homes Challenge Wanaka 2021 is the Tri NZ Suzuki Middle Distance and Aquabike South Island Championships and as part of an initiative with Tri NZ, the IHCW team have been donated $1000 donation from Tri NZ to help the triathlon community in 2021. One of the people we have been able to assist is Melanie Ryding. Have a read of her inspiring attitude and story below. 

“When I exited the swim of Challenge Wanaka in Feb 2020 on crutches with a foot injury (I was swimming for a team and had already had to pull out of my own race, Aquabike). Little did I know that was the last time I would complete any type of event as an able bodied athlete. 

“Less than 8 months later, I was having my left leg amputated below the knee after an 8-month surgical battle to save it. This all came quite out of the blue. I am a personal trainer by trade, used to race at Age Group level for GB at European and World level, never smoked, not diabetic, I don’t have high cholesterol so vascular problems couldn’t have been further from my mind. We still do not know to this day what actually caused the artery in my left leg to clot, but it took 14 months to identify the problem, by which time my foot had no pulse and it proved to be too late to reverse the extensive damage. Amputation was the only option. 

“When I was told on 25 September 2020 that this is what would have to happen, my very first thought was Challenge Wanaka 2021. I had already planned to enter again with a team. Would this put my plans in jeopardy? I told my surgical team – and asked was it still a realistic goal? They still thought so, dependent on healing. So I went ahead and contacted the Race Director on 2 October. My amputation was to take place on 8 October. In effect, I was planning to enter the race BEFORE they had even performed the surgery. That is how driven I am. Do not look at the negatives, the past: look at what CAN be achieved in the future. 

“In between each of the 7 surgeries that preceded the amputation, the surgical team allowed me to return to the pool for personal sanity purposes (with waterproof wound dressings). I started to prepare for life without a leg and always swam with a pull buoy between my knees. My last swim before the amputation was the day before the surgery, 2000m. My last one with two feet intact. 

“Due to healing complications, my clearance to return to the pool again has been delayed, finally receiving clearance on 11 December. I have to be honest, I was starting to worry and had already decided I was going to go ahead and do it anyway even if they still hadn’t let me by Jan! There was no way I was missing this race! 

“With training back on track and only swimming (oh and learning to walk again) to focus on, I’m feeling confident that Race day will be just fine… but I cannot guarantee that I won’t cry! I might be back on two feet (with a prosthetic) by then, then again I might not. That doesn’t matter though. You don’t need two legs to swim! Until then you will probably find me in the pool. Will I return to multisport again? You bet, I will! Returning to cycling will just take a little bit longer, that’s all! 


We can’t wait to see Melanie out there!

Author: Melanie

I am a massage therapist and part time athlete, blogging life thru a disability lens. On wheels, with flipper and occasionally on feet.