A couple of years ago David Walker dominated endurance sport in Cayman. The versatile triathlete was one of the fastest cyclists, quickest runner, and probably the top non national team swimmer. This lethal combination made him practically invincible when it came to triathlons.
Walker’s best result came at the 2005 World Championships, where he claimed a fifth place in the aquathlon in the 25-29 age group while representing Cayman.
The aquathlon is a run-swim-run race, which makes it much easier to stage and less equipment intensive than triathlon, which includes cycling.
In the 2005 World Championships, Walker had a storming first run, and found himself in the lead after the first leg.
During the swim he lost a number of places, clocking the eighth fastest time. In spite of clocking the fastest run time yet again in the final run leg, Walker fell a mere 17 seconds short of a podium position.
He represented Cayman at the Triathlon World Championships twice, and has also represented Great Britain in 1999 and 2000 before he moved to Cayman in 2002.
Although it seemed there was nothing his competitors could do to keep him down, life managed to do what they could not.
A slew of injuries, health problems and increased pressure at work meant that Walker faded from the scene and eventually stopped competing entirely.
‘I took six months off earlier this year, which was due to frustration with exercise-induced asthma,’ says Walker.
He even sold his bicycle, which seemed to indicate that this was indeed it as far as competitive sport, and especially triathlon, was concerned.
A new career as director at Kinetic Partners has also shifted Walker’s priorities somewhat.
‘Heading up the local audit practice for Kinetic Partners with the opportunity to grow the business is something that I take a lot of pride in and something that is all-consuming, very much like triathlon,’ he says.
Yet over the last couple of weeks Walker has started to make a comeback. Although he claims that he is taking it easy, his results speak of a renewed drive to reach the top of his sport once again.
A third place in the first Ogier Stroke & Stride event bode well for his return. He followed that up with another third the following week, and finished the series off with a second place finish, unseating Scott Brittain from the position he had occupied in the first two races.
This gave Walker a third place overall in the series, an unexpectedly good result for a first attempt at a return.
He followed this up with a couple of podium finishes in the Fidelity Fun Run 2-mile series, proving that his comeback was well and truly under way.
Walker’s return to cycling was no less impressive, when he animated the recent cycling association two loop road race.
He attacked repeatedly until the bunch allowed him to get away, along with Mitchell Smith and Ricco Montemayor.
Walker went as hard as he could for as long as he could to make certain the break would stay away, and was only beaten into second place by Smith, who had represented Cayman in the 1988 and 1992 Olympic Games and unleashed a vicious sprint honed on the steep banking of the Olympic velodrome.
Yet even this comeback was almost derailed by the same rotten luck that has characterised much of his racing.
A couple of days before the first Stroke & Stride event, Walker was out training in the ocean off Seven Mile Beach when he had a nasty encounter with a box jellyfish.
Walker came off second best, and had to be transported to hospital for treatment. Yet the tenacity taught by years of torturous training allowed him to take to the start of the Stoke & Stride and show everyone that will take much more than a vicious invertebrate to derail his comeback.
With such consistently excellent results since his return, can Cayman expect to see him on the top step of the podium anytime soon?
In his usual reserved style, Walker is reluctant to commit to a full-blown return to racing.
‘With my current position as director at Kinetic Partners I will be taking triathlon as a serious hobby rather than a profession.
‘I have a strategy of only running during busy season, because that’s something I can maintain my fitness with. Fortunately the triathlon comes four months after busy season, so I have an opportunity to get some semblance of fitness back together,’ he smiles.
Although Walker chooses his words carefully when discussing his comeback, it is clear that there is a burning desire to compete.
‘I’m not expecting to be in a position to challenge Marius [Acker] to contest the win, but I’d much rather be giving it a shot than not trying,’ he says.
Yet no matter how much he rationalises who is likely to be faster in which disciplines and how far behind his training is, Walker still nurtures a small flicker of hope.
‘I know that it’s not impossible as anything can happen on the day. It’s always good fun trying and there is no shame in coming second to Marius,’ he laughs.
In what has been an eventful year for him, Walker also got engaged to Tracey Lees, but is quick to point out that this did not motivate him to start training and racing again merely to get out of the house.
‘There’s such a feel-good factor in the training and the racing. There is so much pride involved that it really can be rather depressing to become injured or not have time to do a minimum amount of training. So I’m very happy.’