Andrew Hughes defies the odds

By Kiri Gillespie

The image of a one-legged man completing a triathlon with crutches sparked astounded comments and admiration from the sidelines at Mount Maunganui yesterday.

Andrew Hughes from Hamilton had never taken part in an endurance running race before the Craig Investment Partners Tinman Triathlon at Pilot Bay.

The 41-year-old completed the swim, cycle and run sections of the event, which saw hundreds of people take part this year.

As Hughes lopped down the final stretch a wave of applause and amazed comments bubbled through the sidelines.

"That's truly inspirational," one man said.

Talking with the Bay of Plenty Times afterward, Hughes brushed off the admiration.

"It's nice they find me inspirational, but my reason for doing the triathlon is no different than anyone else's. I just did it for fun."

Hughes said the task of running with crutches was difficult but he was glad he did.

"This is my first time running with crutches. I didn't want to push it too hard, just wanted to see how it goes," he said.

"The whole running thing is new to me. It's a struggle, it's very hard. You can't go very fast and you are sort of stuck with one speed," he said.

Hughes lost his leg to a bone cancer when he was 20. He had not taken part in a triathlon before and is better acquainted with cycling, having won the Oceania Road Championships time trial earlier this year.

Normally Hughes wears a prosthetic but it wasn't ideal for this sporting challenge.

"I have got a very short stump, so running with an artificial leg wasn't really an option."

Hughes took off his only shoe to reveal bloodied toes, where sand had got inside and worn the top layer of skin away.

Still, Hughes soldiered on, and was now considering taking part in an Auckland triathlon next week "to see how that goes".

Event manager Janette Blyth said the Tinman Triathlon was fortunate to be well supported by athletes from Auckland and the Waikato.

"Numbers are slightly down on last year but with everything that has ben happening in the region, it's great to see so many people in the Bay - we are definitely open for action," she said.

Ms Blyth said the beauty of the event was the standard and sprint race options, which attracted the elite athletes as well as those people like Hughes who were exploring a triathlon for the first time.

"They can actually grow with the event. It's a great way to warm up for other races too because it's usually the first one of the season."

- Bay of Plenty Times

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