Oxman triathlon expands rural-urban connections

More than 400 participants entered the second Oxman triathlon held in December 2020 which brought people together from different backgrounds to enjoy the challenge of a sporting event.

Waimakariri Irrigation Limited has sponsored this event since its inception in 2019 as part of its programme of giving back to the local community.

Event hosts Geoff and Rochelle Spark say it was fantastic to see more local farmers taking part and to see the event grow, particularly considering the impact of Covid-19 throughout 2020.

“I encouraged quite a few to give it a go as it’s all about taking time away from the farm, being active and working together towards a goal. It’s really positive for everyone involved.”

Geoff says being able to host participants from different walks of life on a rural property helps to break down barriers and brings everyone closer together.

“A lot of people outside the farming community haven’t seen an irrigation lake before and don’t realise that it can be used for other purposes like sporting events and recreation.

“We had lots of positive feedback on the event and the facilities.”

Race organiser John Newsom has big plans for the event which is one of only two half-ironman events in the South Island.

“We had an increase in the number of participants in the half-ironman and more people entered from outside the region.

“Our aim is to try and have the New Zealand Championship here within the next two years and that will definitely bring even more people to the area from all over the country.”Water quality is vital for the event and John says the water in Geoff’s irrigation lake is perfect for the swimming leg of the race.

“We used to hold this event at Pegasus but had to move it due to the poor water quality. To be clean enough for swimming we need a reading of less than 200ppm for E. coli. The lake came in at 44ppm for E. coli which means it is pretty much pristine.”

Local farmer Sam Spencer-Bower has rediscovered a passion for swimming due to the event, while finding time away from his farm for training helps to provide a much-needed break from farming.

“I’m not naturally sporty but having something to aim for and working in a team has been really good for me. It’s something I probably wouldn’t have done if I hadn’t had a nudge from Geoff and the others.

“Making the time to do something off-farm is always hard for farmers, but this is a great event to support and I’ve enjoyed taking part over the last two years.
Sam has enjoyed getting back into swimming so much that he took part in last weekend’s La Grande Swim in Akaroa.

“It’s been great to get back into it and I thought why not keep going with the swimming and give it a go.”