Images courtesy European Triathlon and @samparrynz

By Kent Gray/
Sam Parry will undoubtedly be one of the fastest athletes in the sprint distance race at Sunday’s Gen X/Marra Tinman Triathlon. Few will have done it tougher to make the start-line of the iconic Mt Maunganui race either.

The 750m swim, 20km bike, 5km run event will be the New Zealand Junior rep’s first race back after being T-boned by a van while on a training ride in August.

Things had been going swimmingly for the Palmerston North 19-year-old who capped his first major offshore campaign with victory at the European Triathlon Junior Cup Wels in June.

A perfectly executed race with team-mate Ivan Abele led to a Kiwi first-third in Austria and had Parry fizzing for the Junior (U-19) worlds in Montreal a fortnight later only for a bout of COVID-19 to derail his Canadian plans a week before the klaxon.

Parry did recover to finish 11th at another European Junior Cup race in Tiszaujvaros, Hungary but there was another setback about 20km into an easy Thursday morning training ride not long after his return home. This time it proved physically painful in Palmerston North as opposed to the emotional rollercoaster he went through in Europe.

“I saw a van parked on the side of the road and it started indicating, so I thought I should go around him as I was travelling around 35kmh,” Parry says picking up the story.

“I assumed he had seen me already and was waiting but he had begun to pull out while I was going around and put his foot down to do a U-turn. Unfortunately, he hadn’t seen me and I smashed into his side mirror with my shoulder which sent me flying in the air, eventually landing on my back.”

Typically for a triathlete in the immediate aftermath of a scary scrape, Parry’s first thoughts were for carbon rather than bone.

“Thankfully the bike wasn’t damaged but I was left with a cracked helmet and a suspected cracked rib which turned out to be a compressed disc after many medical appointments.”

Parry was out of action for a month before he began easing back into training with Tinman, the traditional start of the ‘Kiwi Summer of Tri’

“I am super keen to get back into some racing, especially back in NZ, it feels like it has been years. I can’t wait to line up again with the lads at Tinman. It’s a race I have competed in many times before.”

Out of adversity, the Manawatu teen has admirably found ways to be thankful and to come back stronger.

“Catching Covid five days out from the Junior World Championships was an extremely hard pill to swallow but one that helped me learn acceptance and adaptability in such tough circumstances,” Parry said.

“On the complete opposite side of the spectrum, winning in Austria gave me an understanding of the level required to do well in this sport and confirmation that consistency and hard work pays off.”

Beyond Tinman, Parry will potentially race the December 16-18 Manawatu Triathlon League before returning to Tauranga for the Eves Surfbreaker on December 27. After that, his plans are up in the air as he now resets for the U23 division.

The time away in Europe with fellow Tri NZ Tier 3 athlete Austin Carter, conveniently ensconced with an “Australian HP crew”, wasn’t cheap so time on the tools as a apprentice builder in Palmerston North is definitely part of the immediate plan.

“At the moment I am still trying to recover from the financial burden I took from the European campaign,” Parry said.

“As much as Europe was an amazing experience and one I definitely want to do again, currently I’m not totally sure whether I’ll do it all again next year, but things may change as we head closer to the 2023 European season. We’ll see.”

Make no mistake though, the lure of triathlon, even after the setsbacks in Europe and Palmy, remains strong.

“The pro life is definitely the goal for me and the little taster I got over the three months I was overseas is leaving me wanting more.”

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