“I want to show that people with autism can participate in sport. In fact, autism is a strength and athletes from any background can be great triathletes. All you need to do is get out there and get active. Don’t let your disability be a reason for not doing sport.”
Sam (Super Sam) Holness is a triathlete that happens to have autism, and he’s going to be awesome. The 27-year old athlete trains like any other elite competitor, swimming, running and cycling roughly 12-16 hours per week. His focus and never-give-up attitude are key characteristics that set him apart as a competitor.
We sat down with Sam to learn more about his goals and how he is challenging the status quo.
HOKA: What do you enjoy about triathlon?
Sam: The night before a race is so exciting. I try to sleep but it’s almost impossible. I just can’t wait to get going. Before a triathlon I always take time to look at the swim course and think about my transition from swim to cycle and cycle to run, and of course nutrition. I am nervous until I hear the starter gun go off and then all is well.
HOKA: Can you shed some light on competing in triathlon with autism?
Sam: I didn’t start cycling until I was about 12 or 13 years old, and some days I cycle for 45 minutes on my indoor trainer. I work hard to be the best that I can be. I believe that my autism is the reason that I can concentrate for so long: it’s my superpower. It’s fun challenging the status quo, by doing all of the things I am not supposed to be able to do.
HOKA: Tell us more about your superpower.
Sam: Because of my autism I have communication challenges. Sometimes words get stuck and don’t come out when I want to speak and express myself. But when I swim, run, and cycle, I feel more confident and in a world of my own. Completing every race and getting a PB [Personal Best] also helps with my self-esteem.
HOKA: What does ‘Challenging the Status Quo’ mean to you?
Sam: Challenging the Status Quo means getting the rules changed to ensure that athletes with high-functioning autism, like me, are no longer excluded from the Paralympics and the Special Olympics. It means becoming the first black athlete with autism to complete Kona [IRONMAN® World Championship] and win a place in the ITU World Championships. I work hard because I want to make a difference.
HOKA: Is there anything else you’d like to share?
Sam: I want to motivate others that have disabilities to take up sports, especially those with invisible disabilities like autism. Sometimes when I compete, I am the only black triathlete. Maybe the only one with autism. But it doesn’t matter: I just do the best that I can and never give up. It’s time to be awesome.
Learn more about Sam Holness below: