AN OXFORD University employee's dream of competing in a world-class triathlon in the United States has become reality after two city businesses agreed to support her.

in June, science communicator Kirsty Heber-Smith won a place at next month's 70.3 IronMan World Championships - which will feature Olympic champion Alastair Brownlee - when she came first in her division at Staffordshire.

The only problem was the thousands of pounds it will cost to get to the competition in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

The 33-year-old reached out to local businesses for sponsorship and was delighted to get two offers of help.

Financial advisors Focus Oxford Risk Management and Swedish bank Handelsbanken, which has an office in Botley, both offered to fund her place, inspired by her passion for fitness and personal ambition.

Miss Heber-Smith, who lives in Black Bourton near Witney, said: "I am so, so grateful to everyone who has supported me.

"It's an incredible feeling when local companies like Handlesbanken and Focus Oxford believe in you and want to help you succeed.

"This support will give me the extra motivation on the day."

Miss Heber-Smith will now be competing alongside 3,000 of the world's top athletes on Saturday, September 9, including Olympic gold medallist Mr Brownlee.

She added: "I think what makes this so special is that it was Alistair Brownlee, who inspired me when I did my first triathlon at Blenheim in 2012, will also be racing.

"I will be so proud to be representing Oxford."

The triathletes will be challenged to complete a course measuring 70.3 miles long: a 1.2-mile swim followed by a 56-mile bike ride and a 13.1-mile run to cap it all off.

Focus Oxford director Nick Jones said: "As a keen triathlete myself I realise the financial cost of attending these events.

"As a company we recognise that we gain business through offering our high level of personal service to local businesses and individuals.

"We take our responsibility very seriously to put back into the community and supporting Kirsty in her sporting challenge is a great way to do this; we are very pleased to be helping Kirsty achieve her goal in racing in the USA later in the year."

Graham Beith of Handelsbanken added: "It’s great to be able to support a local individual who has clear focus on her own goals and ambitions."

Follow Miss Heber-Smiths adventures at