Ironman Fraser Sharp just lucky to be alive
Every ironman competitor has a story to tell, but among them is one man who says: "I have a few - especially being alive".
Fraser Sharp, 37, has battled back after a high-speed crash in 1993 rendered him "95 per cent dead".
An extended coma left Sharp with irreparable frontal lobe brain damage. The promising young cyclist had to relearn how to walk, talk, read and write. He still suffers from the effects of the accident and struggles to find work to support himself.
It has been a lengthy recovery, he says, but a love of sport has kept him sane.
On Saturday, Sharp, originally from Tauranga, will be competing at the 30th New Zealand Ironman race in Taupo. It will be his second time in the event.
"I'm feeling topsy turvy," he says.
"I'm definitely feeling better than how I felt before last year's race. Last year, there were a lot of question marks. This year, I was just telling my coach, so far, I'm not nervous."
The event's anniversary is expected to attract big names.
The thought of former ironman winners hearing his story is "mind boggling", but Sharp says he plans to "just go with the flow".
"My idol when I was a young guy was Erin Baker [nine time Ironman winner]. I use one of her sayings: 'Win or lose, my dog will still lick my face'."
Sharp says the 3.8-kilometre swim will be "a breeze" and he's looking forward to the 180km ride on his new bike ("it's astronomical").
The final leg, a marathon, will be "the hardest part".
"Towards the end of the run . . . you go into another world. You're just trying to hold everything together," he says.
He expects his nerves to play up from tomorrow, but is confident he can settle them and deliver a good performance - ideally about 10 and a half hours.
In taking on the challenge, Sharp is raising funds for Brake, the road safety charity that supports people bereaved and seriously injured in road crashes. He is passionate about making the roads safer for cyclists and motorists alike.
He hopes his story shows people that "anything is possible" - the mantra he uses for his cause.
Regardless of Saturday's result, the New Zealand Ironman is the beginning of a long season for Sharp.
Later this year he plans to race the Nice Ironman in France, and is hoping to gain a lottery entry to the world champs in Kona, Hawaii.
"I'll take it as it comes, and hope for the best," he says.
"I have already won to be alive and doing what I am doing!"