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.