Barclay edging back to full fitness
Injury-plagued Southland triathlete Aaron Barclay is eyeing his first triathlon race in more than a year at the Oceania championships in Wellington in March.
The 20-year-old from Riversdale announced himself to the triathlon world when he won gold in the boys' event of the inaugural Youth Olympics in Singapore in 2010.
Since then, he has endured a difficult time battling a crippling shin injury, which has limited his ability to compete at a high level.
Barclay, who has just completed his first year of applied science at the Auckland University of Technology, has spent most of 2012 trying to slowly build up his training hours and regain his confidence.
He has been training under renowned triathlon coach Chris Pilone, who formerly coached Olympic gold medallist Hamish Carter and Kris Gemmell.
Barclay said Pilone's training approach was very similar to his Southland-based coach Sid Cumming's, in that he did not like to overtrain his athletes.
Last weekend, Barclay won an off-road half-marathon in Hamilton, and said if his recovery kept going smoothly, he was hopeful of competing in his first triathlon in more than a year at the Oceania championships in Wellington on March 9.
The winner of the under-23 section will book an automatic spot at the world championships in London next September, with two other New Zealand under-23 places up for grabs later in the year through International Triathlon Union (ITU) races.
If he does well at the Oceania championships, Barclay will consider heading to France to take part in some club triathlon racing.
Barclay has been running about six hours a week while also carrying out three or four swims and bike rides, as he attempts to build up his strength.
He was optimistic about the possibility of a good showing at the Oceania championships if he could remain healthy and keep progressing the way he was.
"If I can carry my form through and get some good running miles under my belt before then, there's no reason I can't qualify [for the worlds].
"As long as my body is injury-free, I'll be sweet. That's the hardest thing, keeping injury-free."
Barclay has continued to remain in a positive frame of mind, despite his injury problems.
He said he had almost forgotten what it was like to race in a triathlon. His most recent race was in September last year, when he lined up in the world triathlon championships in Beijing.
The youngster said he had an excellent support network around him and that Pilone had urged him to be patient with his recovery.
"I've got people around me who know what they're doing and are working hard to get everything right.
"When I do go out and run pain-free, it makes it all worthwhile. You realise why you do it and put your body through all that pain."
Pilone and Barclay both agree that if he is to race internationally again he needs to be completely injury-free. Last week, Barclay met with a doctor to talk about the possibility of shin surgery. He said his priority was to see how he fared with his racing during the summer and, if the pain persisted, have the operation.
"The pain has been pretty good. It's pretty up and down. You have some good and bad days", Barclay said.
"If I continue all my strength stuff and keep on building up my running, [the injury] should take care of itself."
Barclay will be back in Southland for Christmas and was planning to spend most of January training in Wanaka.
- The Southland Times