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