A silver medal at the World Junior Para Athletics Championships in Switzerland has increased Hawke's Bay athlete Guy Harrison's hunger for more international events.
"I was happy with silver. All the hard work paid off ... the next Junior Worlds in 2019 will be the target now and the venue for them has yet to be decided," Harrison said.
A 16-year-old Napier Boys' High School Year 11 student who has cerebral palsy and competes as a T35 division athlete, Harrison set a New Zealand record of 2m 44.46s for 800m.
"It wasn't a normal race. I actually finished last in the five-strong field which included runners from different classifications. But the podium placings were decided on points and percentages and because I was the worst one in my division that system worked in my favour and I made the podium which was the goal I set when I first began training for the trip," Harrison explained.
A Canadian T38 division athlete (the smaller the numeral the higher the degree of disability), Zachary Gingras won gold with his time of 2m 06s.
A 2017-18 inductee in Hawke's Bay's Pathway to Podium Programme, Harrison took up athletics seven years ago. Until March he was coached by one of Hawke's Bay's most successful age group mentors, Mick Cull, who has since retired.
Since then he has been coached by national race walking champion Laura Langley who has been in training squads with Harrison in the past.
"Laura was stoked with my results on the trip," Harrison said.
Before leaving the country Harrison's personal best time was 2m 47s. On his way to this month's champs in Nottwil, Switzerland, Harrison did two races in Brisbane. He won silver with a New Zealand record time of 2m 40s for the Winter Carnival on the Sunshine Coast.
Five days later Harrison recorded a time of 2m 49s in another Queensland event.
Harrison will have surgery to loosen up his calves and Achilles' tendons next month and won't compete for nine months. One of the goals of the surgery is to have both Achilles' tendons lengthened.
He expects to retain his T35 division status after the surgery. While Harrison's admirable work ethic suggests there's a strong chance he will better his New Zealand record in 2019 or at the 2024 Paralympics which are his long-term goal when he eventually retires and looks back on his sporting career 2017 will always be considered a memorable year for the New Zealand open men's para 800 and 1500m champion.
In addition to his silver medals in Brisbane and Switzerland, Harrison, a 10.1 handicapper at golf, had the honour of caddying for former British Open champion Sir Bob Charles when he played at his Napier club in January. Harrison was the only Hawke's Bay competitor in the Kiwi team of four which travelled to Switzerland.
He was adamant his intense training sessions in hot Hawke's Bay conditions earlier in the year prepared him well for the heat in Queensland and Europe. Most weeks during the countdown to his trip he had four running sessions which ranged from 30 minutes to 90 depending on the proximity to meets. Harrison also had swimming and gym workouts with massage and physio sessions part of the gym visits.
Harrison's father, Keith, was among the spectators in Switzerland and Brisbane.
"It was a great learning experience for Guy. He grew as a person and the trip made him appreciate what's required in an international team environment," Keith Harrison said.