Sam Holness became the world’s first openly autistic endurance athlete to complete an Ironman trilathlon when he represented Britain at the European Championships in Frankfurt, Germany on Sunday (26 June).
The athlete smashed through the gruelling events, which consisted of a 3.8km swim, 180km bike ride and full marathon, in just 12 hours and 29 minutes.
As Sam says, autism has become his “superpower” in the event, allowing him to maintain a focused approach to training and racing. It also helped him throughout the race when he had to draw on that determination and focus to get through cramps brought on gastric intestinal issues on the bike and heat stroke on the run.
After preparing for this landmark moment for the last three years, Sam was able to complete the event and solidify his title has the first openly autistic endurance athlete to complete an Ironman.
Speaking about this incredible achievement, he said: “This is the greatest day of my life; I am now Ironman Man! Iron Sam the Triathlete sounds good. I am determined that I will never stop doing this.
“It was a really tough and hot race – but I kept going even though it hurt a lot.”
Sam, who is based in London, has Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and has been supported along the way by his father and coach, Tony Holness.
Tony said: “As a damily we are so happy to see Sam become an Ironman. So proud, we’re the proudest parents in the World today!
“He swam superbly, and despite challenges on the bike, and the heat on the run, he pushed trhough so many barriers to get to the finish line.
“It was fantastic and even the challenges he faced are good preparation and experience for Sam as he grows as an athlete.”
He went on to explain how getting involved in sport has helped Sam challenge “stereotypes associated with neurodiversity”.
Tony added: “Through this new landmark in triathlon, Sam continues to inspire the autistic community of which there are an estimated 80 million individuals globally.”
While he might be having a well-earned rest, it won’t last for long as Sam has already got his next Ironman competition lined by in October with the World Championships in Hawaii.
Speaking about this opportunity, Tony also said: “It is with huge thanks to Hoka, an IRONMAN global series partner and The IRONMAN Group for providing Sam with the opportunity to compete in both Frankfurt and later this year at the world championship event.
“Beyond helping Sam on his journey to making endurance sport his professional they have taken a position of global leadership in promoting the opportunity for greater inclusiveness.”