It's not often - if at all - they stop the music and party celebrations when someone crosses the finish line at the New Zealand Ironman in Taupō.

But that's exactly what happened when Rotorua's Josh Te Kowhai came down the finishing shoot after just under 15 hours out in the field.

It was a special finish for someone who has beaten the odds following a car crash to not only walk again but take part in sport.

Te Kowhai, also known as "the Sheriff of Koutu", was welcomed by a team of supporters who performed a short haka as he crossed the line - at which point the party music was turned off out of respect.

Josh Te Kowhai training for Ironman New Zealand. Photo / File
Josh Te Kowhai training for Ironman New Zealand. Photo / File

"Getting a haka at the end was the icing on the cake to what was a great day. It was a proud moment for me. And to top it off Ironman turned the music off for it. Something that's never happened before."

Te Kowhai completed the Ironman as the recipient of the Tony Jackson Scholarship.

He was selected for the scholarship, set up to support athletes who without it would not be able to take part in Ironman New Zealand, and because he epitomises the spirit of Tony Jackson and the phrase, "nothing is impossible to the willing mind".

In 2004 Te Kowhai was involved in a serious car crash that ended his professional rugby career. The damage to his legs left doctors questioning whether he would even walk again, let alone return to sport.

Te Kowhai defied the medical odds. He established himself as a personal trainer and gym owner, where he has a particular dedication to helping young people and at-risk groups.

Josh Te Kowhai completed the New Zealand Ironman in Taupō. Photo / File
Josh Te Kowhai completed the New Zealand Ironman in Taupō. Photo / File

Not one for public attention, Te Kowhai briefly spoke to the Rotorua Daily Post today about Saturday's race.

"The race as they say is a lot easier then the training. Just a longer version of a training day. There is pain but nothing comes easy and it all disappears at the finish line.

"I was fortunate enough to have the Boost coaching team from Auckland take care of my needs. All trainings are sent via an app called Training Peaks and they can monitor my speeds and heart rate from there plus we have 24/7 open communication."


He said the support from locals and friends had been overwhelming and much appreciated.

"I had well wishes from near and far and the amount of support around the entire course was unreal. We always have a huge contingent from Rotorua who volunteer in the transition tent who cheer us all on plus being a recipient of the Tony Jackson Scholarship meant there we heaps of other people urging us (including Scott Weatherall - the other recipient) along."

He said despite the 14 hours and 48 minutes on the court, his body today was "not too bad".

"I've got tender thighs and the bottom of my toes rubbed a bit raw but overall pretty good considering."

And since he's come all this way - will he do another one?

"It's not a no right now."