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Triathlete becomes first person with autism to complete the Ironman Triathlon

Sam Holness

samholnesstri | Instagram | Fair Use

Cerith Gardiner - published on 09/27/21

Sam Holness hopes his success will inspire others on the autism spectrum.

Competing in an Ironman competition is often the pinnacle of many athletes’ sporting lives. That grueling 1.2-mile swim, 56-mile bike ride, and a 13.1-mile run will definitely stretch these sportsmen and women to their physical and mental limits.

However, Sam Holness, a 27-year-old triathlete, recently participated in the Ironman 70.3 World Championship in St. George, Utah, and in doing so, became the first person with autism to complete the race.

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A post shared by Sam Holness (@samholnesstri)

With the encouragement of his father, Tony, who is also his coach, the British man trained for over a year to prepare for this huge event. And on the day, Holness, who has autism spectrum disorder, had to contend with a myriad of tricky external factors that made the race all the harder.

Holness dealt with rain and lightning, which was then topped with a sandstorm. These conditions could have caused extra sensory stress for the athlete, considering his autism. But he still came in at an impressive 5 hours and 44 minutes.

While Holness shared with CBS News that he was proud of his achievement, he also added: “I’m happy and I can’t wait to get back to training.”

The triathlete’s parents were filled with emotion, and they ended up in tears when they witnessed their son cross the finishing line. “I think at times, it’s better to be doing the race than sitting from the sidelines watching it,” explained Tony. “Because once he went on the cycle, it’s just, we have no control at all.”

Tony actually gave up his job to support his son’s athletic ambitions that grew when he started studying for his bachelor’s degree in sports science. And now, seeing his son achieve such an impressive feat, Tony is left thinking: “Actually, we sit down and we think: ‘Is it real?'”

Now Holness is planning on becoming the first professional triathlete with autism, and will take part virtually in the London Marathon and a triathlon in Portugal in October. He and his father hope that his achievements will inspire others:

“If you can just inspire people and raise the awareness of autism, help employers to start recruiting more people on the spectrum and do it through sport, and that’s narrowing it down to what our mission is and what we want to do,” shared Tony.

While Holness’ record is so inspiring, what is equally impressive is the love and dedication of his parents to help their son conquer whatever obstacles he has to face along the way.

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