A Tauranga triathlete who has overcome major setbacks to achieve international success, is back in the Bay for summer, hoping to inspire locals to reach their sporting goals.

Former Otumoetai College student Anneke Jenkins, who spoke at the school's sports prize-giving this week, has fought serious illness and injury to remain at the top of her sport.

The 27-year-old, recovering from injury in Tauranga, now wants to encourage others, particularly youth, to overcome their own challenges and share her knowledge about rehabilitation and dealing with major setbacks.

"Its a difficult learning curve to balance the stress, setbacks etc and how you deal with it mentally can have a big impact," she said.


Jenkins is studying coaching and working with members of the Tauranga Triathlon Club on a proposal to set up triathlon development camps for both youth and adults at Mount Maunganui in December.

During a break in their international triathlon circuit, Jenkins will soon be joined in Mount Maunganui by her partner of two-and-a-half years, Spanish triathlete Javier Gomez.

Gomez, 33, is seven-times world champion and an Olympic silver medallist.

The couple met while training in Wanaka.

Planning to be back in the Bay for a few months, Jenkins wants to share her story and offer inspiration to young triathletes.

Head of the triathlon club's junior development programme, Chris Willett, said triathletes like Jenkins were heroes within the local community.

To possibly have Gomez, considered the world's best triathlete, working with club members would also be "unreal", he said. "That doesn't really happen anywhere is the world."

At school Jenkins was involved in every sport possible, from gymnastics to netball.
She was so passionate about swimming as a child that she would sleep in her togs to save time getting to the pool in the morning.


Eventually though, it was this unrelenting passion which led to a two-year battle with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) at age 20.

Jenkins had fought her way through both parents being diagnosed with cancer and the resignation of the coach she had moved to Auckland to train with.

Determined to carry on she shifted to Wellington to pursue her dream and continued to train hard while her body fought Glandular Fever.

"I just couldn't let it go and I was just getting slower and weaker. I was just sick," she said.
Eventually her coach told her to go home and rest. It was two years before she fully recovered from CFS.

"Mentally I was trying to forget about everything. I just ran myself into the ground."

Eventually she was able to let go of swimming - something she felt defined her as a person.

She studied graphic design, which she really enjoyed, and allowed her body to recover.

She started maintaining her fitness though running and cycling and discovered a new passion in triathlon.

"I still get excited about going swimming," she said.

Since her recovery she has helped a fellow young CFS sufferer overcome the illness,

"She's doing really well now, made some great improvements and is feeling good," she said.

With qualification for the Rio Olympics in her sights Jenkins was training hard when disaster struck again in the Canary Islands. Riding while tired in strong winds she hit something and was thrown onto the footpath.

"I hit the ground at 60km/h over the handlebars," she said.

"It was a huge shock to the body, I didn't move or speak for a good 30 minutes and they X-rayed my body neck to toe."

She underwent bilateral labral hip repairs in April last year and recovered well but earlier this year fell on her hip and has been struggling with it. She is now able to bike and swim again, and is slowly getting into running - something she puts down to the help of Auckland physiotherapist Murray Hing and Brad Takai here in Tauranga.

After a tough couple of years she is now happy to be home and surrounded by family and friends.

"Dealing with that kind of stuff for a long time is really stressful," she said.

Meanwhile, Gomez suffered a devastating blow when he broke his elbow in a riding accident just weeks out from the Olympics where he was picked to win gold.

The crashes meant Jenkins missed her opportunity to be at the Olympics while Gomez missed a likely chance to claim gold.

Looking to the future together the pair are keen to set up a coaching clinic to help young people excel at the sport they love.

But not before they achieve their own sporting goals.

"I really want to race in the Olympics, that's a big goal because I've had so many setbacks. I know that I have more to give because I'm quite new to the sport," she said.

At times Jenkins' greatest challenging has been learning to switch off from the demands of training and competition. She finds solace in the kitchen, designing and baking elaborate cakes for family and friends.

Top sporting accolades:

- Triathlon NZ emerging talent award 2013

- 4th 2014 European Cups in Spain and Switzerland

- 2nd 2014 European Cup Final, Madrid, Spain

- 1st 2014 ITU Aquathlon World Championships, Edmonton, Canada

- 3rd 2015 African Cup, Larache, Morocco

- 2nd 2016 European Cup, Madrid, Spain

- 10th 2016 Cagliari ITU Triathlon World Cup, Italy