Top young Whakatāne multisport and adventure racer Oliver Thompson was last night being flown to a hospital in Hong Kong after being woken from an induced coma.
Oliver was in Wulong County Hospital after he collapsed on Monday, on the first day of a three-day race.
Oliver's father, Ian, arrived in China on Wednesday to be with his son. His mum, Solange Thompson, is in Whakatāne. She said last night Ian and Oliver were being taken by ambulance to the airport to be flown in a private plane to Hong Kong.
She said Oliver was semi-conscious but went back to sleep and she was expecting to hear more later.
The 18-year-old was taking part in the China International Mountain Quest, held in the picturesque Wulong district, southeast of Chongqing, a major city in southwest China.
Solange said Oliver was near the end of the first day's racing on Monday and was running when he collapsed near the finish.
"It is a three-day stage race and … he was running towards the end of the day's activities towards the finish, and he just collapsed, from heatstroke and dehydration," she said.
She said they heard about Oliver's collapse from Alison and Bill Clark, the parents of fellow multisporter Sam Clark, who is also at the mountain quest.
The Clarks called the Thompsons at 2am on Tuesday.
Solange said Sam had told his parents about the race conditions.
"The heat was apparently extreme, about 38 degrees, and Alison Clark was telling me that even Sam said it was a very tough first day and there wasn't enough in the way of hydration stations for the athletes and that Oliver wasn't the only one who suffered, but he is the worst."
Sam had told his parents, she said, that it was one of the toughest races he had ever been in.
She said earlier yesterday she was waiting to hear news.
"It is just a waiting game and it is very frustrating with the time zones."
Chongqing is about five hours behind New Zealand.
"It has been very, very scary."
Oliver was called over to China as a substitute for a New Zealand team after a member had pulled out.
"They were keen to get another Kiwi because they were thinking of getting an athlete from China, but Oliver was beside himself with excitement and arranged an emergency passport, visa and everything and he flew over on Friday last week."
Although the competition is a four-day event, Solange said the first day was registration and practice.
Oliver posted on his multisporter and adventure racer Facebook page on Sunday that he was asked the previous Tuesday if he wanted to go to China for four days of racing.
"I had no current passport and three days of planning before catching a flight on Thursday. I picked up my passport on Wednesday morning, got my visa and flights booked on Thursday before departure at 9.25pm that night! It's hard to believe I'm here in Wulong now," he wrote.
"Tomorrow is the first day of racing, a short sharp prologue, followed by three more intense days of kayaking, rafting, mountain biking, running, abseiling and swimming."
Solange said she had received many calls from people who had heard about what had happened to Oliver.
"A lot of people have called me already because it has gone around town and we are a small community. It is quite amazing."
She said she wanted to acknowledge the offers of support from the likes of the Clarks, to Awakeri Playcentre parents, who brought meals, baking and cash to help the family.
Solange said the insurance company had been great.
"Oliver had a good plan, so he was covered, which was lucky. I can't praise the insurance company enough.
"The Chinese Consulate have been in touch and keeping us informed, which has been incredible, really good communication."
Solange said Oliver had amazing mental strength, which enabled him to do such gruelling races.
"He is so mentally strong our Oliver, that his mental state took him further than his body could take him."
In January, Oliver fractured a vertebrae in a mountain bike crash in the Big Easy in Wanaka, forcing him to miss out on this year's Coast to Coast.
A week earlier he was in a team that won the X4 event in the Red Bull Defiance adventure race. He won the premier two-day Coast to Coast in 2018 when he was 17 and placed second the year before.
In 2016 he was the youngest competitor ever to take on the individual Motu Challenge race.
- Whakatane Beacon