Ironman tackles first race after face crushed in crash

20:02, Feb 11 2014
Greg Hadley
HARD NAILS: Greg Hadley is keen to hit the track of a full ironman for the first time since 2011.

Greg Hadley, 57, is not one to let a near-fatal car accident bring him down.

In March the ironman competitor will tackle his first full race since the crash in 2011 which left his face crushed.

Luck was on Hadley's side that night. Surgeons told the Mangakino man he was only millimetres away from being left blind, brain-damaged or worse.

Hadley has no recollection of the accident, only a second-hand tale that the car he was driving ploughed straight into a cow. The beast stoved in the roof of the car, taking with it Hadley's eye sockets, nose and a few teeth.

"I needed 13 plates and 58 screws, and a trachea tube to breathe through," he said.

The surgery took about nine hours, during which his surgeons literally tried to piece his face back together.


But he was out of hospital in less than two weeks, a feat he puts down to the healthy condition he was in before the accident.

"I used to think that training was about knocking things off the list and getting T-shirts but in actual fact the very value was how fast I could recover."

It has taken three years for the Taupo District Council worker to fully recover, but thankfully he trains for endurance.

He runs up to 80 kilometres a week, cycles up to 400km and swims up to 10km.

Returning to tip-top shape has had its demands, though.

Hadley said he constantly battled "niggly nonsense" until his final reconstructive surgery in 2012.

"If you come through something like that it holds your life up, especially if you need follow-up work."

He counts his blessings that his limbs were left unscathed.

"There are some people in these events with one arm. Some people overcome pretty major things. The impact for me hasn't been the same."

Hadley said the ironman seemed to lend itself to keen problem-solvers.

"You sometimes have to do a bit of disaster-control out on the event. Things like [the crash] are just another obstacle that you overcome on the way."

Tokoroa's David Whelan and former pro cyclist Justin Kerr will join Hadley for the 30th anniversary of Ironman New Zealand at Taupo on March 1.

Waikato Times