DOROTHY WAGSTAFF has overcome a serious back injury to become a world champion – at the age of 70.

The Dunnington athlete triumphed in the 70-74 class at the World Triathlon Championships in London’s Hyde Park earlier this month.

Competing on the same course used in the Olympics last year, Wagstaff beat America’s Elizabeth Brackett by 14 seconds following a 750-metre swim, 40-kilometre bike ride and 10km run.

Wagstaff, who won her first world title in New Zealand a decade ago and was fourth in Vancouver in 2008, completed her swim in 15 minutes and 42 seconds, her bike section in one hour, 7.49 and the run in 59.58. Along with her transitions, she recorded a total time of 2:47.45.

Amazingly, having got to the top of her field after ten years of competition, Wagstaff was then forced to have a five-year gap to recover from a problem with discs in her back.

“The last big race I did was in Canada five years ago,” she said. “I had a back operation and I wasn’t ready to take the next step. The pain was awful but the surgeon was brilliant and it took three years to get back to any sort of competition.”

Wagstaff, who has played sports throughout her life, only returned to competition in earnest this year but the former squash player, who turned to triathlons in her late 50s, powered back to form when winning the national championship in Liverpool.

Now about to take part in the Brownlee triathlon at Studley Royal this weekend, Wagstaff doesn’t know yet whether she will defend her world crown – favouring a crack at the European Championships instead.

“We actually couldn’t do the full triathlon course in London due to the cold weather,” she added. “They reduced the swim from 1,500 metres to 750m because of the conditions.

“It’s great and I am really pleased to have won. There were doubts that I would be able to return and, before the operation, I couldn’t transition and easily move between events.

“When you start training again, you get injured so it takes a while to get back into it but I thought I would carry on and see what happened.”