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