Three inspiring women, going the distance

Ilanit Yurman, Orly Tal and Dina Duadi, members of the TRIwecan triathlon team for disabled sports people, will be the real winners at Israman Negev Eilat.

Ilanit Yurman (photo credit: Courtesy)
Ilanit Yurman
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Every one of the 1,600 participants at the 11th edition of Israman Negev Eilat is a special athlete in his own right.
However, few if any can measure up to Ilanit Yurman, Orly Tal and Dina Duadi.
The three women will be teaming up in the half-distance competition on Friday, which consists of a 1.9-km. swim, 90- km. bike ride and a half-marathon (21.1 km). Yurman will get the team under way with the swim in the Red Sea, with Tal in charge of the cycling up the Eilat mountains and Duadi to complete the course near the promenade.
But what makes this group of women so unique isn’t the fact that they will be joining forces to take part in one of the toughest Ironman competitions in the world. The fact that Yurman will be doing so with one leg and that Tal and Duadi are both blind is what turns their team into such an inspirational story.
Over 1,600 athletes – an increase of 400 from last year – from 26 countries will take part in the many events in Eilat, including the Ironman triathlon, which consists of a 3.8-km. swim, 180-km. bike ride and a full marathon (42.2 km.).
The event has gained international recognition over recent years and has grown and developed, quantitatively and qualitatively, to become one of the country’s major international sporting events.
Yurman was the first to suggest they set up a team of women, including those who will accompany them in each of the legs, to take part in the Israman. All three women are members of the TRIwecan triathlon team, which trains at the Israel Sport Center for the Disabled in Ramat Gan, one of the world pioneers in the field of sports rehabilitation. The center opened its doors in 1960, and for more than 50 years has worked to encourage the disabled to participate in a variety of sports activities and to benefit from the countless ways sports can heal both the body and soul.
“This is the realization of the vision of a man named Hezi Roll, who set up the project for the blind at Etgarim, the Israel Association for the Disabled,” said Yurman.
“He was killed by a speedboat while swimming in the sea in April 2011; we decided to continue what he started, and it has taken off since.”
Etgarim was founded in 1995 by a group of disabled IDF veterans, disabled civilians and senior rehabilitation professionals.
The organization promotes outdoor activities and educational programs, acquiring and adapting sports equipment to the specific needs of the disabled.
The driving force behind TRIwecan is coach and manager Izo Shalhav, with Yurman assisting him with the logistics of organizing the group, which currently consists of around 20 athletes, paraplegics and blind, and many volunteers.
“I fell in love with the blind guys,” said Yurman, who lost her left leg at the age of nine. “I wouldn’t want to be in their place, although they say the same thing to me.”
Yurman, 47 and a mother of two who lives in Ra’anana, began to cycle six years ago following her divorce, and decided to approach sports more professionally three years ago.
She won her category at the national triathlon championships in December, and says the sport has changed her life.
The Israman competition is a natural next step for her.
“I always dreamed to be an Israman,” she said. “Triathlon is my first love, but for myself and my many triathlete friends, the Israman is the next level. I really love the triathlon, but the Israman is a special competition.”
A day after the Israman, Yurman will be back in the water to take part in the Red Sea Swim Cup, competing in the 5-km. event.
Tal, 53 and a resident of Jerusalem, has been riding tandem bicycles for many years and has already taken part in the Israman.
She has recently started training with the aim of completing the cycling and swimming sections of triathlons. Tal races with a partner on a tandem bike, which is a regular bicycle with additional seats and pedals.
“I’ve been taking part in lots of different rides for years,” said Tal, who works at the Tax Authority. “I can’t run as I have arthritis, but my goal is to take part in the swimming and cycling sections of triathlons – and I’m slowly getting there.”
For Duadi, the Israman will act as the perfect preparation for next month’s Tel Aviv Marathon.
The 57-year-old mother of three began running three-and-a-half years ago, following the death of her husband. Duadi began losing her eyesight at the age of 19, and will be taking part in her first marathon in the White City.
“I’ve run half a marathon four times in the past, and I’m really excited ahead of my first marathon,” said Duadi. “I’ve been preparing for this for five months, and completed 34 km. this week.”
Duadi is better-known as the reflexologist of the stars in Israel, with government minister Silvan Shalom and actresses Yael Abecassis and Ronit Elkabetz all regular clients. Despite her very busy schedule, she always finds the time to run.
“It gives me a breather and is fun,” said Duadi, who trains four times a week.
While the winners of the main events will surely garner much of the attention in Eilat, they are obviously not the true heroes.
That recognition should go to Yurman, Tal and Duadi, who provide uplifting examples of the triumph of the human spirit over adversity.