Autistic athlete Sam Holness racing at Ironman Ireland, Cork

Autistic athlete Sam Holness racing at Ironman Ireland, Cork

On World Autism Awareness Day, ‘Super’ Sam Holness has announced he will be competing in his first-ever full-distance Ironman triathlon at Ironman Ireland, Cork which will be held in Youghal on August 15.

ON World Autism Awareness Day, ‘Super’ Sam Holness has announced he will be competing in his first-ever full-distance Ironman triathlon at Ironman Ireland, Cork which will be held in Youghal on August 15.

Sam’s ultimate long-term goal is to compete in the Ironman World Championship which would ensure he would become one of the first autistic athletes to take on this challenge.

Ironman Ireland, Cork is back once again this year as part of an Ironman Festival Weekend after the 2020 Ironman fell victim to the pandemic. The event was initially held in Youghal in 2019 which proved a huge success.

Nicknamed “Super-Sam”, the 28-year-old London triathlete is looking forward to competing in this year’s event. 

“I am so excited about my first Ironman race in Ireland. My goal is to secure a qualifying place for the Ironman World Championship in Kona, Hawaii,” he said.

Completing an Ironman triathlon is often described as the ultimate test of endurance reserved for the world’s most dedicated elite athletes. Sam is currently training hard under the guidance of his dad and coach, Anthony Holness.

On World Autism Awareness Day, ‘Super’ Sam Holness has announced he will be competing in his first-ever full-distance Ironman triathlon at Ironman Ireland, Cork which will be held in Youghal on August 15.
On World Autism Awareness Day, ‘Super’ Sam Holness has announced he will be competing in his first-ever full-distance Ironman triathlon at Ironman Ireland, Cork which will be held in Youghal on August 15.

Sam hopes to complete the punishing Ironman Cork challenge which consists of a 3.8km swim, 180km bike and 42.2km run in under 11 hours.

“My autism allows me to be very focused and not easily distracted, it allows me to train hard and smart. I just never give up. If other athletes pass me, I want to catch and pass them.” 

In Ireland, the National Council for Special Education on Supporting Students with Autism Spectrum Disorders in Schools noted that 1 in 65, or 1.5%, of the school-going population in Ireland, has a diagnosis of Autism.

Sam wants to change the perception that is often portrayed of people with autism by encouraging others like him to take up sport and follow his path. Sam stated:

“I am on a mission to raise awareness about Autism by doing Ironman races around the world to change how those with autism are perceived.” 

 The athlete hopes to inspire other people who have autism. 

“Sometimes when I go to an event, I am the only black triathlete and usually the only one with autism. It doesn’t matter that it’s just me, I just like training and racing. Hopefully, I can be an inspiration to others,” he said.

His father Anthony is very proud of Sam’s dedication and athletic prowess. 

“He is an amazing athlete. I spend days watching Sam train and I am in awe of his commitment. We’ve had to adapt our training plans to work with Sam’s autism, which has been made easier by his single-mindedness. His autism also gives him the ability to focus for long periods and master repetitive tasks like training, which may, in the long run, prove an advantage over neurotypical athletes.” 

 Sam aims to turn his passion into a full-time career. He wants to become the world’s first autistic, professional triathlete. 

Sam trains very diligently and closely manages his nutrition which is vital he said: “Like lots of people with autism I used to have a bad diet. I used to eat too much sugar and bad carbs, and not enough fruits and vegetables. When I studied Sports Science, I learned how important good nutrition is," he added.

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