Of all the many iconic things, moments and highlights at Kelloggs Nutri-Grain IRONMAN New Zealand, one of the most sought after and talked about is the Tony Jackson Scholarship.

Named in memory and in honour of one of the pioneers of the sport and great characters of IRONMAN New Zealand, Tony Jackson was a 28-time finisher at IRONMAN New Zealand and a Hall of Famer. Renowned for his passion to encourage, help, inspire and motivate athletes to achieve their IRONMAN goals irrespective of their athletic ability, personal challenges, background, age or gender.

When Tony passed away in 2013, just a week after IRONMAN New Zealand, it was ensured that his legacy would live on in the event he loved, with the Tony Jackson Scholarship awarded each year to a worthy candidate, someone who fits the Tony Jackson philosophy of nothing is impossible to the willing mind.

Jason Young is that chosen athlete this year, returning for his second tilt at IRONMAN, Jason weighed in at 180kg in 2014 when he decided to do something to change his life, and it was to IRONMAN he would turn and like so many before him, he has very much caught the bug.

"Ironman was such a journey and one I would love to repeat, because even though I finished and got my medal, 16 hours didnt sit well with me, I know I should be grateful that I finished, its just the expectation I put on myself. I had done two half IRONMAN events leading into the event and both of them were in the six-hour range, so I was hoping for a 14-hour finish.

"It was a testing day though, and I found out a few things about myself when I went into a few dark places - and Im not talking about the dimly lit streets at the back of the course! So when I did eventually reach that wonderful red carpet that is the finishing chute and hear the MAGIC words YOU ARE AN IRONMAN and I crossed the line.I hugged my beautiful wife and she looked in my eyes and said without hesitation. youre doing that again!"

IRONMAN is a big commitment however, and Jason was encouraged to apply for the Tony Jackson Scholarship, hoping that he too now can inspire others through his own journey.

"The strain on the whanau is something I would love to minimise, it means the world to me and my family to have my entry covered. To have the support of the Tony Jackson Scholarship, it is just amazing and will make all the difference to me and my whanau.

"One of my highlights for undertaking this journey is influencing my friends and family towards a lifestyle where physical fitness is a major component. I am rapt my wife has entered her first event and will be lining up at Ironmaori in November. Also, me and a bunch of mates will be lining up for this years Taupo Cycle challenge."

An Estimator at Dysart Holdings in Auckland, Young knows his limits but still he has not yet found his boundaries, and thanks to the Tony Jackson Scholarship and the mantra passed on through his legacy, Jason can see just how far he can go, all the while inspiring others to do something similar in their lives.

"I know Ill never push the likes of my hero Cameron Brown, but I dont need too, I want to show that this is a sport accessible to everyone, its not just for the whippets but us ex-front rowers can line up and achieve things we never thought imaginable. At the end of the day, it is like Tony said.. Nothing is impossibleto the willing mind."

Tonys widow Verna Cook-Jackson is involved in the selection process and has no doubt Tony would approve of Jason as the recipient for 2018.

"Jason did not have a great day this year, indeed, he had to eat humble pie for most of the second eight hours of the event. I think it must have been the humble pie that had him throwing up on the bike ride! He had expected to 'cream' the bike and then run most of the marathon. He walked most of the marathon. By his own admission he went into a dark place. He did finish, be it somewhat reverentially.

"But throughout his weight loss and training he did manage to inspire, merely by his personal enthusiasm and self-deprecating humour many others who would have given him no chance of getting to the start line, let alone the finish line. I had seen from afar how he had influenced his whanau and family with his encouragement for them to relook at their lifestyles and to make changes to their own health and fitness levels. I know it has done that to many, not just in triathlon but with teenagers in rugby league - he is influential in their goal setting and sport. He was inspiration to them when they saw the changes he was making to his life and health.

"Had Tony been alive, he would have nudged Jason and thrown down a soft gauntlet and offered to take him under his wing and help him do that whilst at the same time help him to continue influencing and inspiring so many others. Tony would have liked that Jason is this year's recipient."

Triathlon is not the only place where Jason is setting a fine example. He is an active member of the community and as Janine Tito, Associate Principal at Te Kopuru School said in support of Jasons application, he inspires those around him.

"The thing I most admire about Jason, is his selflessness and ability to encourage and inspire others (including myself). Jason's sporting background of recent times has been dedicated to coaching youth in League and Tag Football where many of the young men Jason has worked with are achieving their goals of playing Premier League both here in New Zealand and Australia."

Jasons journey to March 3, 2018 and Kelloggs Nutri-Grain IRONMAN New Zealand in Taupo just got a little easier, thanks to the Tony Jackson Scholarship.

- This story has been automatically published using a media release from Athletics New Zealand