A TRIATHLETE is celebrating after swapping the panto stage for the international stage having received a shock GB call-up.
It’s quite the transformation for dedicated Matt Turnbull - especially considering he only signed up for his first gruelling endurance challenge less than two years ago.
But the actor-turned-athlete has always dreamed big and is now just weeks away from achieving a lifelong dream to represent his country.
It was only in 2012 when the 36-year-old dad-of-two featured in the Mail after landing the role of Fleshcreep in the Billingham Forum Theatre production of Jack and the Beanstalk.
He was no stranger to the big stage having appeared in various theatre productions, and in BBC show Byker Grove.
But after his brother Joel suffered heart failure, aged just 35, leading to the discovery of a rare hereditary heart condition he suffers with, Matt devoted himself to exercise - with remarkable results.
Joel survived the frightening ordeal and Matt was tested for the condition but was relieved to be given the all-clear.
He dedicated himself to his training with the Hartlepool Endurance Group ahead of some mammoth distance challenges, and soon realised he wasn’t short on talent.
And after securing a coach who helped to establish a strict training routine, Matt pulled out his finest performance to date in booking a spot at the upcoming Triathlon European Championships, in Kitzbuehel, Austria, in June.
“I’ve always been very determined and very dedicated,” said Matt, who lives in Seaton Carew with his wife Kelly and two children, Dylan, seven, and Ben, six.
“But if somebody had said two years ago when I started training I would be representing Great Britain at the European Championships I would have thought they were mad!”
Matt has got his 5k time down from 24 minutes to around the 16 minutes and 30 seconds mark.
And his training on the roads, in the pool, on the bike and in the gym now amounts to around 16 hours a week, on top of his full-time job as a performing arts teacher at Grangefield School, in Stockton.
But he’s hoping the tough training schedule will have him well prepared for the big event, which consists of a 750m swim, 15-mile bike ride and a 5k run - around a gruelling course up the Austrian mountains.
“I’ve got a fantastic network of people around me and they have been a huge help,” said Matt.
“I believe in them and they believe in me.”
Matt thanked the coaches and experts who have supported him, including Adam Brooks, from Peak Performance Sports Academy, in the town, and sponsors Paul and Jackie Manuel, who run Wet Rock n Ride bike shop, in York Road.
Matt has to fund the majority of his training, travel and accommodation for events.
He has organised a fundraiser, to be held at the Rovers Quoit Club, in Easington Road on Saturday, May 3. Raffles, a disco and live entertainment will feature on the night.
Tickets, priced at £4 are available from Wet, Rock n Ride. Any businesses who would be happy to support Matt can also contact the shop.