Manawatu triathlon stalwart Andy Martin will put aside his many hats this weekend and wear a very personal one for a change as he celebrates 25 years in the sport with a return to where it all began, in Wellington on Saturday at the Sovereign Tri Series National Championships.
For the past decade Martin has been vice-president of the Manawatu Triathlon Club and event manager for the kids' triathlon series. The sport is very important to Martin and his family. His three sons and wife Lenka are all big supporters and love triathlon as much as he does and will be there supporting or competing this Saturday.
This year's Sovereign Tri Series Triathlon in Wellington will mark a very special occasion for Martin - it will be 25 years since he competed in his first Wellington Olympic distance triathlon. 1991 was in fact a busy year for Martin, who also did his first half ironman in Wellington and then a full ironman in Auckland.
Martin is showing no signs of slowing down either, if his recent form is anything to go by ahead of Saturday's race, in which he is again looking to qualify to represent New Zealand on the world stage.
"Last year I competed in my second Wellington Triathlon and I qualified for the ITU Age Group World Championships in Chicago. It was a great experience for me and I had two perfect races, setting a 25-year personal best in the standard distance race.
"This year again I'm hoping to qualify in Wellington for the world champs over the standard distance which will be held later this year in Cozumel, Mexico. I'll then aim to compete at Kinloch in the Sovereign Series two weeks later to try and qualify for the sprint event."
Event Director Stuart Dwight says Martin is typical of so many of the athletes chasing age group glory in the National Champs on Saturday.
"Andy and his family are immersed in the sport, they love it and what it gives to them in regards health, fitness and the camaraderie of the triathlon community. With National Championship medals on the line in all age groups over the standard distance this weekend, there will be many like Andy, each chasing their own goals and objectives - many with similar great family support."
Dwight though says the event on Saturday is not all about those with years of experience in the sport, there are events to suit the beginners as well.
"Wellington offers something for everyone and most definitely this includes the first timers and the kids with the Splash and Dash. Our Short Distance race is easily accomplished by just about anyone with a base level of fitness and a great attitude. Bring your mountain bike, enter as a team - get a few friends and family together and make a day of it. We don't mind if you walk the 3km in the Short Distance event, we will be waiting for you at the finish line just the same."
Martin will know about people of all levels of the sport, from the kids to the beginners to the experienced athletes. Martin started the kids' event in the Manawatu back in 2004 with 100 kids a week participating. He's enjoyed watching the numbers continue to grow.
"Now there are some 700 kids competing each week, from ages 2 to 12," he says. "The 13th year of the series starts on the February 15 and runs each Monday for five weeks. The kids' triathlon is a family affair. My son Filip will be taking part in his fifth series and my wife is a very key part of the event support team".
Saturday will be Martin's third time racing in the Sovereign Tri Series Wellington event and as has been the case throughout their involvement in the sport, it will again be a family affair.
Two of his sons will compete in the Under-19 race this year, one that features as part of the Tri NZ National Junior Series and carries National Championship status over the sprint distance in a draft legal event.
David (17) joined his father in Chicago last year at the World Champs and is a regular amongst the best juniors in the country, but for Adam (15), this will be his first sprint race at the Under-19 level. Both David and Adam are coached by Olympian and former World Champion triathlete Sam Warriner. They both recently competed with 100 other junior triathletes in the first Future ChampioNZ event held before Christmas in Taupo, the first round in the Tri NZ National Junior Series.