Preston impressing: Paul Preston's trophy collection this season


Spare a thought for five Queenstown triathletes entering New Zealand’s biggest ironman after being mucked around this month.

Aaron Fleming, who’s tackling Taupo’s Ironman NZ for an incredible 10th time, Paul Preston, who has completed three full ironmans and first-timers Fiona Gallagher,
McKenzie Edgar and Clint Williams were due to contest the event — comprising a 3.8km swim, 180km bike leg and a marathon — on March 6.

As that day fell during the latest Covid lockdown, the event was postponed till this Saturday, meaning the quartet had to inconveniently build up for it all over again.

Fleming, 37, thinks he’ll be the youngest age-group athlete to complete the event 10 times.

Amazing persistence: Aaron Fleming’s competing in his 10th Ironman NZ

Amazingly, following major lung surgery in 2000 he was told by his surgeon he’d never be able to physically exert himself again.

Calling himself a back-of-the-pack athlete, Fleming —Department of Conservation’s southern South Island director — has also raised more than $35,000 for charities, primarily
Cystic Fibrosis NZ.

He also only has Africa and South America left in his quest to complete ironman events in every continent where there’s a race.

Preston, 35, who’s competed in Taupo, finishing in 9hr 30min, has also completed Challenge Wanaka and Cairns full-ironman events.

This season, in his 35-to-39 age group, he’s had two firsts and three seconds in smaller triathlons around NZ, surprising himself how well he’s been going on less training.

‘‘I think just being consistent over the last five years, and not having big breaks, I’ve just slowly, gradually got better.

‘‘If can pull off a good race [on Saturday] I’ll definitely be up there again.’’

Preston also coaches several triathletes including UK-born Williams, 34, who’s miraculously competing in Taupo despite having had two brain surgeries for cancerous tumours.

Brave: Clint Williams has shrugged off health and immigration hassles to prepare for Ironman NZ

He’s regularly trained 14 to 16 hours a week, and would like to go under 11 hours.

A qualified joiner, he’s had extra pressure in the lead-up, battling Immigration NZ’s cruel decision not to extend his essential skills visa on the grounds he could be a burden on the health system.

His appeal’s been turned down, but fortunately he can still compete in Taupo as all visa-holders have got six-month extensions.

A friend of Williams, Edgar, 29, says what he’s gone through inspired her to enter this Saturday.

‘‘He trained while he was still having treatment so I was like, ‘I’ve got no excuse’.’’

Inspired: McKenzie Edgar’s been inspired to enter by Clint Williams

Not a natural sportswoman — though her dad’s ex-NZ cricketer Bruce Edgar — she says her aim’s just to finish on the same day she starts.

‘‘The cutoff time’s 1am on Sunday.

‘‘I want to be done at least by midnight, so that’s 16 hours.’’

A hip injury curtailed her running earlier this year, though she kept biking.

‘‘I enjoy the swimming the most, I’m probably better at cycling, and running’s hard for me.’’

Gallagher, 27, who warmed up for Taupo with a second in her age group in the Tauranga Half in January, says she’s been training for a full ironman for a few years.

Primed: Fiona Gallagher

She entered one in her home country, Ireland, in 2019, but pulled out after she broke her collarbone on the bike during Challenge Wanaka Half that year.

‘‘I’m going in really fit this year, I’m really looking for ward to it which is a nice way to be.

‘‘I’ll be pretty emotional crossing the finish-line, I think.’’