Home Australia First Nations athletes to take on ‘world’s toughest one-day event’

First Nations athletes to take on ‘world’s toughest one-day event’

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Two indigenous athletes jogging while training for Ironman Australia.

First Nations woman Koorinya Moreton says training for this weekend’s Ironman Australia triathlon has helped her push boundaries and achieve more than she thought possible.

Moreton, from Yuin and Bundjalung Country, will be among nine First Nations athletes taking on the grueling Ironman event in Port Macquarie on the New South Wales Mid North Coast this Sunday.

She and six other Indigenous athletes have been training as part of an IronMob project, which began 18 months ago.

Their goal is to encourage more First Nations people to participate in triathlons, connect and prioritize their health and well-being.

Moreton, who comes from Batemans Bay and now lives on the Gold Coast, said the experience had been “really enriching” and she was ready to tackle the 3.8km swim, 180km cycle and 42.2km run.

Bobby Maher (right) training for Ironman Australia.(Supplied: TRIMOB)

“We are going to different triathlon events [with IronMob] … and training together and participating, so it really reduces some of the anxiety that comes with it, since you’re together,” he said.

“When I first signed up for this project it was really about challenging myself and trying something new, and over time this really changed and developed a lot of my self-esteem and confidence and how I approach everyday things.

“I have connected with people that I will continue to stay in touch with beyond triathlons, I have formed great connections with other mafias.”

An indigenous man dressed in sports equipment jogs while competing in a triathlon.

Noongar man Nat Heath is the founder of IronMob Australia.(Supplied: Nat Heath)

The other six First Nations athletes who will compete with Ms Moreton as part of TriMob include Robert Briggs, Leisa Leon, Raymond Landers, Bobby Maher, Oliver Whiteley and TriMob leader Nat Heath.

Bobby Maher said he hoped they would inspire others.

“I want to support other groups to get involved, have fun in sport, connect with others and see what their potential can be,” he said.

Encourage First Nations triathletes

Noongar man Nat Heath, a multiple Ironman competitor, established TriMob in 2020 as a way to encourage more First Nations people to participate in triathlons.

Heath, who now lives in Sydney, said IronMob was an extension of that program.

An indigenous woman rides a bicycle during a triathlon.

Koorinya Moreton competing in a recent triathlon.(Supplied: Anthony Smith)

“One of the best ways to provide the opportunity to empower people was to participate in the world’s toughest one-day event: an Ironman triathlon,” he said.

“In the history of the Ironman, we know of only 13 First Nations people who did an Ironman. I wanted to create an opportunity and a program to change that.”

Heath said he was already seeing big changes.

“Recently, more than 50 First Nations people participated in a triathlon-based event; three years ago, you’d be lucky to see two or three First Nations people,” he said.

“The ultimate goal was obviously to empower them, but also to inspire other First Nations people to take up the sport and improve their health and wellbeing.”

Huge progress

Aerial shot of a group of athletes swimming competitively in a river in Port Macquarie.

Last year’s Ironman competition in Port Macquarie.(Supplied: Korupt Vision)

Heath said triathlon was a very individualized sport, but TriMob created a sense of camaraderie that helped motivate people.

“From a physical standpoint, it’s night and day from where these guys started,” he said.

“Some members of our group had difficulty running three to five kilometers, and now they are at a capacity where they will tackle 3.8 km of swimming, 180 km of cycling and 42 km of running in one day.

“The physical change in them has led to a change in their personal belief about themselves.”

Moreton said he had his sights set on crossing the finish line.

“For me, being able to finish the event is the ultimate goal and also being able to soak up the environment and the race, while training for such a long period of time,” he said.

“So, being able to interact with people on the course and also with our supporters… and also with our non-Indigenous allies who have been really great in supporting TriMob.”

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