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One Arm No Barrier for Ironman Nick Bailey


Triathlon is a sport with many great stories and ordinary people who are achieving what appears to be the impossible. One of those stories is Nick Bailey who will this weekend line up at the Kellogg’s Nutri-Grain IRONMAN New Zealand.

Nick is your everyday Kiwi male, in his fifties and knocking close to 90kg he decided he would train for and race in an Ironman. The big difference is Nick only has one arm.

Nick lost his left arm in an accident when aged 24, coming out second best to a forklift when working in Antarctica. But it wasn’t the lack of an arm that worried Nick most bout taking on Ironman, it was an arthritic knee that required surgery 18 months ago and may yet require replacing.

Bailey is a very familiar face within Manawatu's sporting community; he is owner operator of the Manawatu Action Indoor Sports Centre.

He admits to a tough time in the past year as he balanced training, work and some personal setbacks along the way.

“I guess the hardest part of my journey was the first couple of months. I pretty well had to start with no fitness base at all; I was knocking 90 kilos after a couple of years of little or no activity. Then I had to carry some weight on a pretty bad knee, which despite an operation eighteen months ago may need replacing.

“Once I was through the first couple of months of training and was coping in that aspect reasonably well, the next 8 months or so brought more challenges. Losing my mother in July was a bit of hiccup you might say. She pretty well brought me up since I was 13 year old when I lost my father. This will be a big motivation for me; the poor old girl spent her last months in a dementia unit and carried the first article from the Manawatu Standard around in her stroller everywhere.”

It is not only the memory of his parents and in particular his Mum that Nick will carry with him on Saturday though, he suffered further heartache when losing a good mate.

“I also lost a cycling buddy Doug Mabey in the New Year; he was out on a ride I was supposed to do with him so I have found that particularly hard. The memory of these two people will make the pain easier on the day though I reckon.”

It is with a healthy sense of irony and with Nick’s devilish sense of humour that he talks up his strongest part of the day.

“I have spent most of my training on the first two disciplines and I hate to say that my swimming - if I go straight, could be my strongest part of the day. I don’t swim in circles generally but I am a little worried that when I put my foot down on the swim I could end up in Kinloch!”

Cycling does present its challenges with Nick having a specially built bike and is ready to walk and run the marathon to finish his day – although he won’t have his regular walking companions alongside.

“I’m not sure where I am in my cycling. Before Christmas I would have said around a six and a half hour ride but a couple of crashes and problems with numbness in my hand might slow me down a little. I have had radical changes to the bike and grown a ‘cycling arm’.

“The run walk I have surprised myself from not been able to run to now looking at running a kilometre then walk a kilometre. I pretty much spent most of the training time walking my three dogs, I only have to walk into the house in cycling gear and they go crazy for a walk.”

Nick does get serious though when talking about inspiring others with disabilities who might otherwise be frightened of becoming involved to take up sport, anything that might interest them.

“As a role model I have always tried to use my disability to highlight the positive. My life has been based around sport; I have been working in indoor sports game since 1990. At my age I would like to encourage other people with disabilities and health issue to get into sports. I say use it or lose it, give it a go!”

And he may not be finished once he crosses the line sometime on Saturday afternoon in Taupo.

“Beyond ironman…. hmmmm, I’m not sure. Perhaps a disabled multisport event the length of New Zealand. I’m sure there are more crazy people out there who might want to join me!”

Nick’s race gets underway at 7am on Saturday morning in Taupo.


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