Start for future tri stars

By Cameron Leslie

WANTED: Young sportspeople from all walks of life. Money is not integral, just a willing attitude to train hard. The reward you ask? The chance to represent your country and succeed on the world stage.

This is the brief for the sort of children TriKids endurance sports coach Murray Healey wants to see joining his pilot programme which starts in schools in February.

"My whole goal is to make it accessible to everyone," said Healey.

"No matter how much money their parents bring in, they should be able to race. Up until now, it's been the honky old white boy who has some money behind them."

Healey said the idea stemmed from an initiative he was part of, along with Ray White Allens and former Northern Advocate sports editor Tim Eves, about 10 years ago which still exists today, the Ray White Allens Kids' Triathlon.

"I've always looked at taking it [the Ray White Allens Kids' Triathlon] further to offer the kids more ... the whole concept is triathlon used to be for the 30-year-old person, but we see with the Brownlee boys at the Olympics [who came first and third at the Olympics] who have just turned 20.

"They've come from a tri background rather than in the old days they came from a swim [background]. So these kids are taking on tri from a young age and continuing through. New Zealand is in a position where we're being left behind a little because we haven't taken care of our youth guys."

Healey's view is one with some clout of its own, after coaching Sam Warriner to the Beijing Olympics and previously being an elite junior coach for Triathlon New Zealand.

Healey's programme is a New Zealand first which he hopes to spread all over the nation with the help of TriNZ, kicking off the programme in Northland before moving on to Waikato next year.

"What we do is we go into a school for three days and we have curriculum material they do before we get there about water safety, running, bike skills and bike safety. We get there and put them through triathlon skills over the three days and, on the last, we end up doing a race," Healey said.

He provides about 30 bikes which have been leased for free from Avanti New Zealand so the children don't need to provide anything.

The interest from schools is such that Healey is booked out through to Easter. He said he aimed to roll out the programme across terms one, three and four with a special interest of heading towards Dargaville.

Healey's programme also provides an exciting opportunity for young athletes with disabilities to get into the sport after ParaTriathlon was added to the list of Paralympic sports available at the 2016 Rio Paralympics.

The announcement of Sport New Zealand's annual $1.4 million investment into triathlon comes at a good time for Healey as he looks to get sponsors on-board to help with the roll-out ofthe programme in Northland schools.

Healey is supported locally by IC Motors through the sponsorship of a vehicle to transport loaned gear to schools for the children to use but is always looking for more support.

- Northern Advocate

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