Participant Story – Diana Barnett

Participant Story – Diana Barnett

Jan 24, 2023

Diana Barnett (née Chirila) will be one of the brave athletes taking on the SunSmart Busselton 100 in 2023!

Diana came to Australia as a refugee in 1983, aged just 7 years old. Her family sought political asylum in Australia, after fleeing the Romanian Ceausescu communist regime. It was a difficult journey, with her family spending a year in Libya and Austria before becoming Australian Citizens and settling into Perth life.

Diana’s parents were Chemical Engineers, and spoke English well. Unfortunately their qualifications were not recognised in Australia, and so they worked washing beakers in science laboratories and other unskilled work while proving themselves gradually. They worked 60+ hour weeks and were eventually able to own their first Australian home; settling in the developing suburb of Hillarys.

After many years of hard work, my mother became part of the Royal Australian Chemical Institute & my father became a Professor of Ophthalmology,” said Diana.

Diana was really interested in Gymnastics and her parents made sure she was able to follow her passion.

“I grew up living and breathing gymnastics with up to 20hrs a week training at the peak, and still managed to get good results in school. Coming from hardship, I had what people now call ‘tiger’ parents, where everything is about achieving so you can have a better life than they did. I grew up knowing nothing but pushing and striving to be the best always,” said Diana.

At age 15 Diana retired from Gymnastics to focus on her schooling after realising the Olympic dream was out of reach. Throughout her twenties, Diana enjoyed cycling and commuted each day by bike from Hillarys to UWA (30km each way).

She met and married her husband Jye and had three children. Sport and exercise fell to the wayside as she focused on parenting.

“[Being a mum] sometimes made me feel like I had forgotten some parts of what made me who I am. After having my third child I was in a sort of depression, realising I had stopped doing the things that gave me joy,” said Diana.

“I loved watching my children thrive, hit milestones, & explore the world with new eyes. That is indescribable pleasure for a new parent to experience. But having a goal, my own life, something to strive for, was missing.

“There is always a moment in a person’s life that is a turning point and mine was when I saw my husband having a very active life away from the kids while still being an amazing dad. I was doing the mum part well, but I was fading with no outlet for myself,” she said.

In 2016, a friend invited Diana to participate in a bootcamp fitness program at their local beach, and she jumped on the offer. She started training three times a week, doing open water swimming and beach runs, and each time she felt fitter and more invigorated to keep training. Eventually she decided to try competing again, and entered her first Triathlon aged 40.

Triathlon combined Diana’s love of cycling with her newfound skills in swimming and running. She took racing head on starting with a team entry (with husband Jye as her team mate) at the X-Adventure Dunsborough (XAD). She had gone in unprepared with no understanding of how to look after her nutrition or pace, and vowed to learn all she could about the sport. She asked Jye to teach her how to mountain bike and swim freestyle, and in 2017 she took on her first Individual event aged 41.

“It was a win in my mind even without a podium finish like I used to get in my gymnastics days. I wanted to do more. I was in awe of the athletes doing Long Course distances and I wanted to know that feeling too. I decided to embark on a journey to complete the long course the next year,” said Diana.

“Training hard with the local Dunsborough run club & researching online, I made it to the start line for the Long XAD in 2018. My goal was just to finish & as before, not vomit in front of my kids. I achieved both & came away with a surprising 3rd place podium finish in my age category,” she said.

After that Diana began to chase every race that interested her, and even competed in marathons, ultra-marathons, road cycling races and long distance open water swims.

In 2020, she purchased her first road bike from Fat Duck Cycles in Busselton and signed up for the May IRONMAN 70.3.

“I will forever remember it clearly and reverently; the atmosphere and the comradery on course. It is easy to understand why triathlon is so addictive. The crowd and athletes are in the race together, with competitors out there giving their all, while supporters are willing them to finish – a team effort,” she said.

In December 2022, she completed her first full IM distance.

In 2023 Diana will be competing in her first SunSmart Busselton 100 event, having deferred due to injury last year. Her daughter Joey, and youngest son, Banjo, raced the inaugural Busselton 100 as part of the SunSmart Kids Triathlon.

“I love training towards achieving a set target. The sense of achievement especially when I’m out there actually racing is true happiness,” said Diana.

“I love the pain I feel in the process towards conquering a big goal, and learning about my body and what it is capable of- it is truly astounding. I don’t love getting injuries, but I do love overcoming them and feeling strong again. Most of all I love the feeling of being out there racing with like-minded humans where we all have the same objective including the supporters, volunteers etc. Finishing is the icing on the cake,” she said.

“I am so excited to do the Busselton 100 because it will be my first time in the new format. This race holds a very special place in my heart. It is what started me on the ‘on-road’ triathlon journey. To top it all off it is a local race in my own backyard, what could be better!”

Feeling inspired? Get your own spot on the start line or sign up today!