In our second installment of My Story Vancouver we hear the inspiring stories of Sarah and Steven, two Age Group athletes who have given their all to make it to Vancouver using their passion for triathlon. Stay tuned for more motivational tales as My Story - Vancouver continues.
Sarah Jack Sprint World Championships Women 20-24
Sarah Jack is not your normal athlete but then she wouldnt be the first triathlete to claim some divergence from the accepted norms in society.
But this 20 year old has already gone through more personal pain and turmoil than any veteran pro athlete would ever hope to experience in a career worth of racing, and she is about to head to her first ever World Championships as part of the New Zealand team.
On the way to Vancouver this determined Epsom Girls Grammar old girl can expect to set off each and every metal detector at every airport. Its not that she will forget to empty her pockets of the usual mobile phone, keys and change. The problem for Jack is the two Titanium rods that she carries with her everywhere she goes its kind of hard to leave them behind when they are fused to your spine.
When her current coach George Hilgenhoult first saw Jack she was a feisty 13 year old third former at Epsom Girls Grammar and showing some promise as a member of their renowned cycling programme.
Little did he know that she would one day return as a triathlon student bound for the World Championships. Even more surprising would be that she was competing at all after enduring health issues that would crush weaker willed people in the blink of an eye.
Jack herself has no time for wallowing in questions of why she has had to go through so much. What she does is explain her surgery in a matter of fact manner and maturity that belies her young years.
In February 2004 I underwent 12 hours of surgery to correct my (adolescent idiopathic) scoliosis. Scoliosis is lateral curvature of the spine: looking at me from the front before the surgery, I essentially had an S-shaped back. The surgery involved fusing 2 titanium rods down most of the length of my spine, removing 2 ribs for bone grafting and cutting a further nine ribs.
Although it was major surgery I have now fully recovered and think the surgery has had quite a few perks I grew 6cm during the surgery and now have perfect posture!
While Jack might make light of the surgery and her subsequent recovery, (perhaps helped by some inside knowledge Jack is a third year med student), there can be no doubting the seriousness of the procedure she has come through. She acknowledges the assistance of family and friends on the road to Vancouver.
My parents and brother were instrumental in my rehabilitation and I cannot emphasise enough how lucky I am to have such a great family.
My coach George Hilgenhoult has also been fantastic in crafting together a programme that has really challenged me whilst keeping me free of injury and sickness.
Hilgenhoult is full of admiration for his young charge and knows she will leave nothing in the tank in Vancouver.
Five years ago she was training as a junior with some national and elite squads but frankly I thought she was out of her league. But Sarah is so tenacious; she kept plugging on and moved on to the U16 junior squad and attended several New Zealand camps.
Despite her setbacks or maybe because of them, Sarahs mental attitude is incredible; Ive not seen anyone like her. She is unassuming, committed and enthusiastic about the sport and continues to improve.
As soon as she qualified (at Kinloch) I put her on a rigorous programme to make sure she was ready. To date it has been all good with great progress especially in her running. She always was a talented little swimmer but her running is really coming on.
Jack has graduated to the World Championship team from along the Tri NZ pathway, beginning with the now world record breaking Weet-Bix kids Tryathlon.
Like just about every New Zealand kid my first exposure to triathlon was competing in the Weet-Bix Kiwi Kids Tryathlon. I was originally a competitive swimmer but eventually grew tired of doing the same thing eight times a week so decided to join the (Epsom Girls Grammar) school cycling team and give triathlon a go. After a year in the sport I was part of the New Zealand junior team to travel to Australia for the Trans-Tasman challenge.
Hilgenhoult is not prepared to put a ceiling on Jacks potential, suggesting any limits are hers to make.
If she stays as focused as she is and has no further health issues, she could yet develop further. She is just so capable and has a great motor to keep going and clearly has the mental aptitude that many elites would envy.
Jacks goals are not surprisingly uncomplicated.
My main focus has been balancing training with study commitments as I am in my third year at medical school. But on the racing front this will be my first ever world champs so I am feeling both incredibly excited and nervous as the race is getting closer every day!!
My aim is simple, that is to wear the silver fern with pride and enjoy the experience. In the next year I would like to medal at nationals and in the long term I would love to be competing in the sport in 10, 20, 30 years time.
But perhaps most heartening to those charged with administering the sport are Jacks thoughts on what attracts her to the sport and what will in all likelihood help her achieve that 30 year goal.
I love the diversity of triathlon; you can never get bored when there are three different disciplines to train for. The triathlon community is great; people are always interested in how your trainings going and never hesitate to give you advice.
Jack will have great support from that triathlon community when she joins a 113 strong team for Vancouver, one that will form a community in its own right as each leans on the other and Tri NZ staff for support and encouragement.
One thing is sure, Sarah Jack will be second to none when it comes to pride in the silver fern that she will carry (along with a couple of Titanium rods) around the World Championship short course in Vancouver.
Steven Moody - IRL Olympic World Championships Men 35-39
For a lot of triathletes, I presume it was a natural transition from whatever swimming, running, cycling or rowing background that they came from so I am sure it is a bit of a mystery how a beer swilling rugby jock ended up in the same place as guys who are used to the strains of endurance racing.
The truth is my journey started back in 2003 when my family and I were told that my father was diagnosed with cancer. This is a terrible moment for any family and I know that many others unfortunately have experience of this stark message the most awful part of the whole thing is the sense of helplessness that everyone feels.
For me, I felt that I had to do something, anything to make me feel like I had some control over what was happening and remove the sense of helplessness so I decided to run my first ever marathon (Dublin) to raise money for the Irish Cancer Society (ICS) who were very helpful through a traumatic time for myself and my family.
It is one of my proudest moments that my father, Liam, was there to see me finish my first ever marathon and as such, endurance sports became an important link between me and my Dad. Even the fact that I was dressed as a French maid (its another long story but the ICS benefited from my father catching me in womens clothing for the third time in his life!) could not dilute the look of pride in my Dads eyes.
Unfortunately, my father lost his battle with cancer some six months later but I have since continued my fundraising efforts for the Irish Cancer Society in his memory.
The fact that Liam was there to see me to see me complete my first major endurance event I find that when I train or push myself to my limits in endurance events - I feel a little closer to him.
This has seen me complete a number of running challenges like the Canadian Death Race (2005) and the Himalayan 100 mile challenge (2006) and to date, I have managed to raise approx 36,500 for the ICS.
With this burning desire instilled in me, I naturally (or unnaturally some might argue) made the “transition” (no pun intended) to triathlons - it was there that I found a wonderfully fun community that only increased my desire to push myself to my limits.
That was 3 years ago and now I have reached the point where I have been selected to represent Ireland in the Age group world triathlon championships in Vancouver in June - this has been a long journey with many early mornings in a pool, late nights on a bike or running track, a number of painful lessons learnt and some completely exhilarating experiences.
When June arrives I will have trained on average 11 times a week with 3 swim sessions, 3 run sessions, 3 cycle sessions and 2 weights sessions to have prepared myself to compete with top class athletes from all over the world.
In doing so, I am completely indebted to the strength that my father instilled in me and my family as without this I would not be going to Vancouver - Thus, it makes perfect sense for me to dedicate this achievement to my late father and the family that he left behind.
As a further tribute to my Father, my family and myself have used my representing Ireland to raise another 10000 that will go to directly to the Irish Cancer Society . He certainly has left a mark!