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Get to know some of British Triathlon’s elite squad and hear about how they got into triathlon

Introducing Sam, an Autistic triathlete aiming for the top!


In another of our triathlete profiles we talk to Sam about his journey in the sport and his ambitions in triathlon.

Name: Sam Holness

What’s your involvement in triathlon?

I’m relatively new to triathlons.  So far I have participated in Sprint Triathlons and am training to become an elite triathlete at Olympic and later at Ironman distances. I train with RGActive in London and swim outdoors at Shepperton and Ham lakes.  

Favourite Discipline of Triathlon: Swim, Bike or Run? (Why?)

This is me at Dorney Lakes taking part in my first sprint triathlon - August 2016 I have been swimming since I was 2 years old but didn’t compete until I started training to become a triathlete. This is my best discipline because I’ve been doing it the longest. Swimming outdoors has been great for building my confidence, strength and endurance.  Running is next on the list. I am a member of an athletic club in Kingston upon Thames and routinely compete in charity 10ks as I love the competition. Cycling is my nemesis because I started cycling fairly late, however I live near to Richmond Park which is an ideal location for improving my technique and performance.

Why did you want to do triathlon?

Being a triathlete for someone with Autism is very challenging, but I love the sport because it brings together the best of me, it draws together my strongest sporting skills, swimming, cycling and running, empowering me to be the best I can. It has helped me to improve my confidence and enhanced my self-esteem. I have always set myself challenges and doing a triathlon has been right up there in the top three.  Passing exams when people thought I wouldn’t, going to University when people thought I couldn’t and taking part in sporting events when no one expected me to. I do triathlons for fun, to complete and because I want to be the first person with Autism from a Black Ethnic Minority background to qualify for the Paralympics or the Olympics. It would be great to become famous and in doing so encourage others like me with a learning disability to take up sport and believe that they can do well, more than just participate. My dissertation for my Sports Science degree was about how coaches work with autistic athletes to improve their mastery of skills. In parts this was a reflective piece of work, helping me to consider my journey, but it also explored the implications for coaching individuals with learning disabilities, identifying strategies to coach these athletes to compete at an elite level.

I love the sport because it brings together the best of me, it draws together my strongest sporting skills, swimming, cycling and running, empowering me to be the best I can

How did your journey into triathlon start?

I’ve always been a good swimmer, swimming regularly at my local gym.  Over the last 4 years I have also been a member of a running club, taking part in 5k and 10 K fun runs, and I live near to Richmond Park and have always cycled there just for fun. After seeing a triathlon on TV I thought I could put my three interests together and decided to try my first triathlon, which I did in August 2016 at Dorney Lakes.  Ever since, I’ve been hooked!  Since then I have competed in five sprint triathlons, the most recent was  

What motivated you?

Swimming, running and cycling are things that I am good at. Everyone needs something that makes them feel good about themselves, something that they can do.  For me it is triathlons. Sport has helped me to build my confidence and improve my social and communications skills. It has taken me places that I never thought possible, giving me belief that I can achieve and that I should continue to aspire. I have made the decision to dedicate my future to becoming the best triathlete that I can be. Having autism restricts my employment opportunities as only 16% of adults diagnosed are in full time employment, being a triathlete has much better odds. I also have a goal to coach, help and encourage others with learning disabilities to participate in sport so they can be the best that they can be.

What is your best moment in triathlon?

Competing in  Check out the article published in our local paper HERE 

What advice would you give to anyone thinking of giving triathlon a go?

Please give it a try. It’s the best sport ever.

Any other comments or thoughts?

I would like there to be a rethink of the criteria to allow autistic athletics take part in the Paralympics or Special Olympics.  For example, to allow athletes like me to participate at an elite level at the Paralympics will require a new category to be created for individuals with learning difficulties that have an IQ>75, similar to what INAS are trialling for swimming. This would be a great development for the sport.  For more information on this check HERE 

Recent picture of Sam after superheroeseries Triathlon


If you've got a story to tell please get in touch with Jon Train email [email protected]


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