Nicky Sa­muels: the busi­ness of triathlon


When it comes to mak­ing tough de­ci­sions, Wanaka Olympian triath­lete Nicky Sa­muels has made a few.

Aged 11, she de­cided be­tween French Horn and vi­o­lin, or sport.

As a teenager, she tossed up be­tween be­com­ing a vet or fol­low­ing her Whangarei friends south to study teach­ing and phys ed at Otago Univer­sity.

Dunedin was all about na­tional league hockey un­til she went home on hol­i­day and bumped into for­mer school teacher, Olympian triath­lete Sa­man­tha War­riner.

War­riner’s per­sis­tent in­vi­ta­tions to go for a swim forced more de­ci­sions.

‘‘Af­ter a month of nag­ging, I gave up,’’ Sa­muels told the Wanaka Cham­ber of Com­merce women’s net­work last week.

She went for that swim, then bought a cheap bike and started triathlon.

Back at Otago Univer­sity, leg­endary triathlon coach Dr John Helle­mans took her un­der his wing.

‘‘It was like the mu­sic sport de­ci­sion all over again. My hockey stick went into the ward- robe and started col­lect­ing dust,’’ she said.

Dur­ing her ca­reer she won the elite un­der-23 world championship bronze medal (2005), the Aquathon world championship (2012), the Xterra off road world triathlon world championship (2013) and the elite world cham­pion bronze medal (2014).

She also placed in the top three in many world championship and ITU races.

When the two-times Olympian re­tired last year, the de­ci­sion was a no-brainer. She was un­ex­pect­edly but de­light­edly preg­nant. Any dis­ap­point­ment at miss­ing the next Com­mon­wealth Games was fleet­ing.

Sa­muels said she ap­proached her 11-year triathlon ca­reer like a busi­ness. Goal set­ting was im­por­tant.

‘‘Write it down. Then work back­wards. Cre­ate sub goals. If you are not tick­ing them off along the way, you could be go­ing off track some­where,’’ she said.

Mo­ti­va­tion al­ways came from within, not from a coach. She had to be pa­tient and keep an eye on the big pic­ture.

‘‘Be­lieve in what you are do­ing and just go get it,’’ she said.

Spend­ing six months ev­ery year away from her Wanaka home and hus­band Steve Gould felt very hard, ‘‘a self­ish thing’’, but it was im­por­tant to look af­ter your own agenda, she said.

Sacrifices in­cluded not go­ing on ad­ven­tures and hol­i­days with fam­ily and friends ’’be­cause I was scared I might break some­thing’’.

Two main in­jury frus­tra­tions robbed her of train­ing and rac­ing time, in­come op­por­tu­ni­ties and threat­ened Olympic prospects.

‘‘It is all about turn­ing these lows up­side down. Like any busi­ness, you have to push into them and ask the hard ques­tions,’’ she said.

She lis­tened to her body and re­alised she did best when self­coached.

Sa­muels fin­ished 13th at the 2016 Rio Olympics. ‘‘I had to be happy with that. I had taken con­trol back.’’

With baby due in Au­gust, Sa­muels is fo­cused on coach­ing. She does not miss train­ing 30 hours a week but does miss the ban­ter of her Wanaka train­ing mates, a group of older men she calls ‘‘the hairy leg­gers’’.


Nicky Sa­muels is coach­ing and fo­cused on fam­ily.

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