Some Rotorua youngsters were blown away to see All Black Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi at the Weet-Bix Kids TRYathlon this weekend. He was handing out medals and meeting fans. But as Zizi Sparks finds out, the day was equally as special for Tahuriorangi.
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More than 1000 kids crossed the finish line at the Sanitarium Weet-Bix Kids TRYathlon at Kuirau Park today.
Silver Fern Casey Kopua, Olympian and New Zealand heptathlete and high jump champion Sarah Cowley Ross and All Black Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi were there to make the moment special for the participants.
But it was also significant for Tahuriorangi.
His son and niece both entered their first triathlon event.
"To have my niece and little boy participating makes it special."
Thomas Tahuriorangi and Diamond Cherrington, both 6, participated in the inaugural Splash and Dash event including a 50m pool swim and 1500m run.
For Tahuriorangi, who was born and raised in Rotorua and attended Rotorua Boys' High School, supporting the event was an easy decision.
He said it was good to see the 1100 participants enjoying the day and see the looks on kids' faces when the crossed the finish line.
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"They were happy to finish it ... their parents couldn't be more proud."
Tahuriorangi said while he hadn't been involved in triathlons growing up, he believed staying active was important.
"It helps you with discipline in whatever you do.
"The most important thing is you get to make life-long friendships. You're not doing it by yourself, you always have that support crew to get you through tough times," he said.
"It's also seeing the rewards of running in the morning, gyming when no-one is looking, the work behind the scenes.
"You see the rewards. Whether it be making the All Blacks or winning the Netball World Cup."
Diamond and Thomas said they enjoyed swimming the most and seeing their friends participating.
Sanitarium manufacturing manager Richard Brown said the event was all about encouraging children to be active.
"It's one of our core principles, health and wellbeing for the community."
Brown said this was the first year a Splash and Dash event for younger participants had been held and it had been added due to feedback from parents.
He said about 90 children had entered that event and the most popular category overall was ages 8 and 9.
"It's great seeing kids getting out there enjoying themselves.
"The great thing is the reaction of runners coming across the finish line. They all enjoy different parts of it," he said.
"There's a sense of achievement. It's not about who comes first, second or third, it's about giving it a go. From the first to cross the finish line to the last, they are still smiling."
Brown said the Weet-Bix foundation was also giving back and donations made to the foundation through the event went towards bikes for children who did not have bikes so they could enter the event.
The triathlon was open to ages 6 to 15 and held at Kuirau Park. Prizegiving was to be at 12.30pm. The next event is on Tuesday in South Auckland.