Six Masters medals af­ter six years off

Central Leader - - WHAT’S ON - SAMHEWAT

Aniel Smith is out to prove that ath­letes should never give up on com­pe­ti­tion.

The 31-year-old teacher picked up six medals at last month’s World Mas­ter Games held in Auck­land, six years af­ter in­juries stopped what was promis­ing to be a very suc­cess­ful run­ning ca­reer.

In 2008, Smith came sec­ond to Olympic sil­ver medal­list Nick Wil­lis in the 1500m at the New Zealand Na­tional Cham­pi­onships.

He was also a for­mer 800m na­tional cham­pion, but plan­tar fasci­itis meant his ca­reer was stopped ag­o­nis­ingly short.

Plan­tar fasci­itis is in­flamed tis­sue which runs across the bot­tom of the foot lead­ing to a stab­bing pain near the heel.

Af­ter a six-year long stint on the side­lines, he en­tered the World Masters in De­cem­ber and started train­ing in Jan­uary, with new-found mo­ti­va­tion.

‘‘I re­ally wanted to prove some­thing. I just gave up on my­self af­ter the in­juries and let them win.

‘‘That’s been hard to deal with, but you have to progress as an ath­lete and try other things so that’s where swim­ming and cy­cling came in.’’

Smith said he did very lit­tle in terms of run­ning lead­ing up to the Masters.

He used the swim­ming fa­cil­i­ties at the school he teach­ers at - St Cuth­berts in Ep­som - and got on his bike, all of which al­lowed him to train ef­fec­tively with­out ag­i­tat­ing his in­juries.

‘‘It sort of opened my eyes to the ben­e­fits of cross-train­ing,’’ he said.

‘‘In the past, I al­ways just fo­cused on run­ning and never tried any­thing else. Now, I’m in love with triathlons.’’

Aniel won gold for the 30-35 age group in the sprint triathlon, 1500m, 5000m, and 6km cross coun­try.

He won sil­ver in the 800m and 10km road race and said ev­ery event was com­pet­i­tive and no medal was guar­an­teed.

Smith had spent three years liv­ing in Ja­pan be­fore mov­ing back to New Zealand to teach phys­i­cal ed­u­ca­tion at St Cuth­berts last year.

As a re­sult, his par­ents hadn’t seen him run in com­pe­ti­tion in a while so it was good to have them up for his lat­est vic­to­ries, he said.

‘‘Mum and dad were on the side­line for ev­ery event, they didn’t miss a thing.’’

Smith will take a few weeks to rest and re­cover be­fore get­ting back into train­ing. He now hopes to con­tinue com­pet­ing in triathlons.

SAM HEWAT/FAIR­FAX NZ

Aniel Smith, 31, won six medals at the World Masters Games last month af­ter six years away from com­pe­ti­tion.

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