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World’s first openly autistic IRONMAN athlete wins Guinness World Record

The world’s first openly autistic athlete to complete the IRONMAN® World Championship triathlon in Hawaii has been awarded a Guinness World Record for his achievement.

29-year-old Sam Holness from Kingston in London completed his first triathlon seven years ago, and has since been recognised for multiple world firsts, the latest being recognised by the Guinness World Record judges.
Sam didn’t even know he was in the running for a Guinness World Record until he was contacted by officials after the event had taken place.

He said: “When they said I’d won I was like, ‘wow’. I was so excited when I got the award and became the first autistic triathlete to compete at Kona.”

When Sam was diagnosed with autism at the age of three, his parents were constantly reminded to set low expectations for him.

But Sam is now challenging the preconceptions about what is possible, defying expectations as a record-breaking triathlete.

The IRONMAN triathlon World Championship, which is held in Kona, Hawaii, is made up of a 2.4-mile swim, followed by a 112-mile bicycle ride, then a full marathon.

Sam completed the triathlon in 13 hours, 5 minutes and 44 seconds, placing him 1,558 out of 2,589 participants on the day.

Tony Holness, Sam’s father and coach said: “The receipt of the email from IRONMAN with the formal invitation for Sam to participate in the World Championships in Kona was one of the most joyous days of our lives.

“Although the journey hasn’t always been smooth, it has been gratifying to see Sam’s progress. Now he has dreams, aspirations, and a purpose in life. He is an IRONMAN and endurance athlete.”

Looking ahead to the rest of 2023, Sam will be competing in the London Marathon with Black Trail Runners, where his aim is a sub-3-hour time.

He’s also aiming for a sub 4-hour 30-minute time at the 70.3 (half IRONMAN) World Championships in Finland this August, and eventually a sub 10-hour full IRONMAN time.

Sam is an ambassador for Ambitious About Autism, a UK national charity which aims to improve opportunities for young people on the autistic spectrum.

If Sam was speaking to someone with autism, he said: “I would tell them not to let their autism stop you from participating in sport, just get out there and do it.”

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