OPEN water swimmer James Mangeolles and his close friend, triathlete Tom Van Rossum, should have plenty to look forward to later in 2020, after a whirlwind few years has seen the pair make their mark on the world stage.

Neither even competed in these disciplines during their youth, with Mangeolles a county swimmer and national cross country runner, while Van Rossum was an endurance runner.

But the duo have found their niches now, and have Bradford to thank for playing a key role in their successes. They do much of their training along the Millennium Way route in the city, as well as up Ilkley Moor.

Mangeolles has an even more special connection to Bradford too, as his father Gerry was born here and much of his family still live in the city.

But the sport of open water swimming has taken Mangeolles much further afield than West Yorkshire.

He said: "Oceanman is the only organisation that holds dedicated open water championships.

"I'd done triathlons before but I tried a 10km Oceanman qualifying event in Spain in 2018. I came seventh in my age group and qualified for the World Championships in Dubai, where I finished seventh in my age group again.

"I qualified for the World Championships in Mexico last December too and finished eighth in my age group. The water was 27 degrees, so pretty warm, and I saw a baby hammerhead shark, and a manta ray.

"We reached one corner of the race and there was a load of coral fish, I almost forgot I was even racing at that point, it was amazing.

"I went scuba diving and to see some ruins while I was in Mexico and it was just a great experience. Oceanman allows you to meet people and do races all around the world.

"I've made friends from the likes of France, Italy and Russia, so it's good socially and good to race them too."

Usually, the 35-year-old Mangeolles is a bit closer to home, and he said: "I just love being in and about nature.

"I was age group champion in 2018 for the 5.25-mile Coniston End to End for example, and it's great to be able to just jump into a lake and swim. It's enjoyable and refreshing.

"I've got a lot of family in Bradford and Tom and I do plenty of training here too. There's the Millennium Way route and lots of different places for us to run and for Tom to cycle.

"I'm part of Leeds-Bradford Triathlon Club too (Van Rossum trains with Jackpot Racing) so I enjoy doing challenges with them."

Van Rossum, 36, is looking forward to the World Ironman Triathlon Championships in Hawaii this October, qualifying by placing sixth in his age group at Ironman Wales last September.

A good finish there could be the pinnacle of a career which has so far seen Van Rossum come 70th in his age group at a previous World Championships in Hawaii, with a stonking time of nine hours and 24 minutes.

Back in the UK, Van Rossum's achievements include winning the Cleveland Steelman half ironman in 2017, the Hornblower Duathlon in 2018 and the A Day in the Lakes half ironman triathlon in 2019.

But in terms of training and preparing for this year's events, the coronavirus pandemic could prove a major road block.

Mangeolles explained: "I'm still running on Ilkley Moor for example but on my own, and of course all the pools and leisure centres we'd normally train at are closed.

"I've entered the Oceanman Lago d'Orta, which is due to be held in Italy at the end of June, and that has been one of the hardest hit countries by the coronavirus situation.

"Some open water events are already being cancelled and even though my fingers are crossed, I'd imagine this one might be too.

"I could even do some cold water swims but really, we're both just being led by the Government's advice right now.

"I'll just do open water swimming events as and when it's okay to do so."