Fam­ily catches triathlon bug

Central Leader - - NEWS - By JESS LEE

ELITE triath­lete Sam Ward has carved out a strong path on the world triathlon cir­cuit and his fam­ily is com­ing along for the ride.

Sam will be com­pet­ing as part of the New Zealand high per­for­mance squad at the 2013 World Triathlon Cham­pi­onships in Lon­don in Septem­ber, while his younger brother Liam and dad Pat Ward will hit the cir­cuit in the age group cham­pi­onship races.

The Epsom trio rep­re­sents two gen­er­a­tions of the fam­ily that con­tin­ues to ex­cel in the sport.

It was for­mer triath­lete Ali­son Ward, the boys’ mum and Pat’s wife, who spurred them to­wards the mul­ti­stage sport.

Ali­son won a sil­ver medal at the Guam South Pa­cific Games in 1999.

Triathlon New Zealand named Sam as one of 2013’s small 14-strong elite squad as it at­tempts to re­build its high per­for­mance pro­gramme.

The 18-year-old left for Noosa on July 18 to be­gin his train­ing for the world cham­pi­onships along­side New Zealand’s finest triath­letes in­clud­ing An­drea He­witt and Ryan Sis­sons.

Sam has been com­pet­ing se­ri­ously in the sport for seven years and is aim­ing for a top five fin­ish in Lon­don.

‘‘I’m com­ing back from a knee in­jury at the start of the year so I had goals that are pretty tough to reach this year now.

‘‘I’ve still got a lot of work to do to get there and have months of train­ing ahead of me.’’

The in­jury has forced him to fo­cus on swim­ming and cycling but run­ning will be the main tar­get from this point. If he stays on track a medal at the 2020 Olympic Games is in sight, he says.

For 15-year-old Liam the world cham­pi­onships is an op­por­tu­nity to com­pete on the world stage in a tough age group.

‘‘I would like to come in the top five – it’s a big ask for that age-group.

‘‘It’s al­ways been a longterm goal for me to fol­low in Sam’s foot­steps and I think hav­ing him as my brother has re­ally helped me that much more.’’

The friendly ri­valry has helped to push the bud­ding triath­lete to work harder, Liam says.

It was about two decades ago that 50-year-old Pat caught the ‘‘triathlon bug’’.

But un­like his com­pet­i­tive sons he’s happy to see where the race will take him, Pat says.

‘‘I have no goal. I’m just re­ally pleased to be able to com­pete in Lon­don – that’s fan­tas­tic. In terms of a podium fin­ish that is very un­likely.’’

Triathlon New Zealand has de­clared just three ath­letes in the or­gan­i­sa­tion’s ‘‘podium’’ tier in the wake of a dis­ap­point­ing Olympic cam­paign in Lon­don last year.

But Sam says there is plenty of po­ten­tial com­ing through the pro­gramme.

‘‘We’re not hav­ing the podium fin­ishes like Great Bri­tain but it’s pretty good,’’ he says.

‘‘In the men’s team they’re still quite young so they have a long time in the sport to progress which is a good sign.’’

The ITU World Triathlon Grand Fi­nal will be held from Septem­ber 11 to 15 in Lon­don.

Photo: JA­SON OXENHAM

Triathlon trio: From left: Liam, Sam and Pat Ward are all com­pet­ing at the 2013 World Triathlon Cham­pi­onships in Lon­don in Septem­ber.

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