Brent is a professional triathlete from Gisborne who has overcome serious health issues and just got on with his life
‘I am already a winner. I won the most important battle of my life – cancer’. ‘Never settle for being average - being there just to make up the numbers is not enough’.
Brent was a New Zealand professional triathlete based in Australia, but now living and working in Singapore. However, New Zealand is still home and he is here often. He has a unique story to tell. Brent was born and grew up in Gisborne, New Zealand. He was an avid water dweller and no stranger to many sports with a passion for soccer. Having predominantly focussed on soccer and swimming for the majority of his early years and with boredom setting in, at the age of 13 he found a passion for cycling. The effort, the sacrifice, the drama was unlike anything else. He won the junior category in his first race. Next he ventured north to compete in the National Duathlon Championships selection race for the championships. Again placed highly, he did enough to secure a junior Elite berth in the coming World Champs. In 1995 he raced in the World Duathlon championships in Cancun, Mexico, one week before the triathlon. To help pass the days leading up to the triathlon he decided to join the swimming with the boys and was surprised to be able to keep up with them.
Brent clearly recalls a young man by the name of Cameron Brown who asked why duathlon and not triathlon? Cameron probably can’t remember it but I really stuck with Brent. That summer in early 1996 he raced Nationals and after about 1 month of swimming training did enough to get selected for his age group to attend the World Triathlon Championships. In the following two years while at university he dedicated himself to triathlon and was racing internationally by late of 1997 as an elite competitor in World Cup races and secured his first international win in Japan later that year.
As a 23 year old triathlete, things were going pretty well for Brent. He was in the national squad, racing World Cup races and World Championships, representing his country and having the time of his life training and racing and doing what he loved.
1998 handed out even more opportunities for international competition, however as good as it proved, there were so many inconsistencies with form in both training and racing. The downward spiral really started with a visit to Japan in July that year. Brent was rushed to the medical unit straight after the race; he lay still, near unconscious as saline IV’s were administered in a bed of ice to drop core body temperature.
The first ‘lumps’ were discovered the day before a World Cup Triathlon in Auckland (late 1998), however it took months, 3 doctors, an endless array of pills to cure his mystery virus. Virus was the prognosis of choice, never cancer. Eventually a collection of golf ball sized tumours were removed from the left side of his neck and sent to the lab for analysis. The diagnosis was Hodgkin’s disease (cancer). The cancer spread heavily through his neck and lungs and desperately close to his diaphragm. Obviously the diagnosis put any World Cup or Olympic aspirations for 2000 on hold as treatment and full recovery was now the dominant focus. 8 months of debilitating chemotherapy and radiation ensued. He completed the radiation treatment and by September 1999 was formally in remission. He re-entered the sport he loved and re-established at the elite level, now as an Ironman athlete rather than the shorter Triathlete.
Brent overcame cancer to compete in his first Ironman competition two years after extensive chemo and radiation. Since then he has reached greater heights with multiple podium finishes at Ironman New Zealand. He then now qualified for the sports ‘Holy Grail’ the Ironman World Championships in Kona, Hawaii.
Brent’s enthusiasm for life is infectious. He has a genuine desire to help those around him, and see them face any adversity with the same positive approach that he now has for life. There is still a lot more to come from Brent Sheldrake, so watch this space.
• Overcoming limits – personal and business
• Goal setting
• Corporate health
• Work/Life balance – fit for business