Sharon "Shaz" Dagg lives in Feilding but she has no qualms about cutting a track to Hawke's Bay to boost her sporting credentials in a quest to become New Zealand's first para-triathlete at the 2020 Paralympics in Japan.

For Dagg, the cross-pollination the third leg of the inaugural Hawke's Bay Ocean Swim Series provided at Perfume Point last Saturday endorses and justifies the travel and time invested.

"It's certainly given me the confidence that I know I can do that distance again so it's just a matter now of working on technique and, hopefully, a bit of speed to where I was," says the 52-year-old who works for Parafed Manawatu to inspire physically disabled youth.

Mindful fitness is the lowest common denominator in moulding a template in any form of triathlon, Dagg is bravely back to the drawing board after her third amputation to her left arm.


"I just wanted to know if I could swim with the [shortening] of my arm — survive or swim in circles, basically — so I just wanted to know if I could still do it to prepare for my races."

The para-triathlete found the amputations had altered her dynamics quite considerably, prompting her to re-learn and refocus.

"It was my first swim back on Saturday but I've got a lot to get my head around in the next four weeks before I race," she said. "I need to be more stronger in the pull up and in the arm stroke, obviously."

As a para-triathlete who has harboured the international ambitions only six months ago, Dagg swims 750m, cycles 20km and runs 5km and, eventually, accruing points on the international circuit is imperative.

"I've just [last month] become New Zealand's para-triathlon champion."

Her constitution wobbled on its axis after a farm accident in October 2016, when a corrugated iron-covered fence gate pinned her left arm between a post, breaking it.

However, her recovery didn't go so smoothly as anticipated, resulting in the amputations.

"It'll be 12 months next month but five weeks ago I had a further shortening of it so I'm an above-elbow amputee," she explained.


She competes in the PTS4 grade, which stands for para-triathlete section four.

Dagg will attend two races in Australia — the Oceania Championship at Newcastle, NSW, late next month and Devonport, Tasmania, on March 4 — before joining the world championship series circuit in a bid to qualify as a Paralympian.

The series will take her to Japan, Switzerland and Spain to make the cull for the 16th edition of the Paralympics from August 25 to September 6 in Tokyo.

While falling in the Manawatu province, Dagg prefers to be affiliated to Triathlon Hawke's Bay because she finds more camaraderie here.

"Just the whole of Hawke's Bay Triathlon club is very supportive with all the different races they put on," she says, hoping to visit here at least once a month.

She said her international campaign would be costly because the support from Paralympics New Zealand didn't have a pathway for para-triathlon just yet.

"I have to prove to them that I'm worthy of it [becoming the first Kiwi para-triathlete] so, unfortunately, that comes at a cost."

The third above-elbow amputation for Sharon
The third above-elbow amputation for Sharon "Shaz" Dagg has only got her to embrace life with a lot more vigour. Photo/supplied

Dagg wants to impress on other disabled people that if they can see her competing then there's no reason why they couldn't emulate her feat.

"If I encourage one of them to do any physical activity or just participate then my job's done."

While Dagg is going to miss the next leg of the ocean series here because of her overseas stint she will return to the following one.

"I'm not one for the sea — I tend to feed the fish so the more experience I can get the better," she said with a laugh when asked what it was like to try to tame the ocean with one and a bit of arms.

The cordial persona of Bay people adds to the picturesque location and challenging conditions at Perfume Point.

"It's just nice to go there and you always get a hug from somebody, you know, so it's pretty cool."

Perhaps the best snapshot of Dagg is in not letting her attitude to life become pear-shaped after her accident.

"For me it's brought new challenges every day I relish them," she said. "I look at able-bodied people's lives and it's boring because we face challenges every day and they just do the same thing every day so to me I'm just loving this journey."

Dagg, is indebted to all the other people who are involved in helping her and other disabled people redefine their template in the game of life.

That includes her husband, Owen, who stood by her despite her impending nomadic lifestyle in the past year.

"I could be possibly away for six weeks at a time this year," she said. "I've just got to give it a go rather than wondering later on what-ifs."

Lachlan Cairns clocked 27m 47s to win the 2km race ahead of Kate Allen (0:27:53) and Rhys Searle (0:28:57).