A Manx athlete is undertaking a fundraising challenge as a way of giving something back to the charity which helped him identify a potentially fatal heart condition he knew nothing about.

Graham Stigant, an ex Commonwealth Games swimmer and Ironman triathlete, had no idea he was putting himself in great danger each time he exercised because of an undiagnosed heart problem. It was only when he volunteered for a heart research project that he found out.

Graham, 60, of Baldrine, said: ’The study was being undertaken at St George’s Hospital in London.

’The team, led by Dr Gemma Parry-Williams and Prof Sanjay Sharma, were looking for athletes aged 40 to 65 who regularly participated in endurance sports, to study the effect of exercise on masters athletes’ hearts.

’I fit into this mould - I swam for the island in the Commonwealth Games from 1978 to 1990, then moved into triathlon.

’I participated at age-group level in four World Championships at the standard distance, before going long and completing five Ironman events including the World Championships in Hawaii’.

The research in London was funded by CRY (Cardiac Risk in the Young), the UK charity that is teamed up with the local organisation, Craig’s Heartstrong Foundation, to bring over the relevant equipment and qualified staff needed to carry out heart screenings in the island.

Graham continued: ’On my first visit to London I was found to demonstrate unusual heart rhythms and scarring on my heart. Due to this, I could not take part in the research but was still helped to investigate my problem.

’If it were not for CRY I could still be pushing myself to the max without knowing the danger I was in.’

Graham was later diagnosed with undefined cardio myopathy and had an Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillator (ICD) fitted at Liverpool Heart and Chest Hospital last May.

He is now preparing to reach Peel in next Saturday’s Parish Walk to raise money for Craig’s Heartstrong Foundation.

He added: ’I can no longer compete to a level that would put me at risk but, while it is long, the Parish Walk is a suitable challenge as I can perform to my own level without raising my heart rate unduly.

’By raising funds, I hope to give something back to the charity that helped me.’

People can donate at: www.justgiving.com/Graham-Stigant