Sixteen years ago, seven-year-old Sarah Goss excitedly packed her bags and travelled from her home town of Palmerston North to Taupo, to take part in her first ever Weet-Bix Kids TRYathlon – a decision that changed her life.
At 23, the kid who featured on the front of a Weet-Bix box is now Captain of the New Zealand Black Ferns Rugby Sevens team that brought home a silver medal from the 2016 Rio Olympics – and she says the Weet-Bix Kids TRYathlon was an integral part of her journey.
‘The Weet-Bix TRYathlon gave me a great foundation for my career. I was a pretty active kid, but my parents were farmers so we didn’t have a sporty ‘life’, as such – we kept active by helping out,’ explains Sarah, who is now a full-time professional rugby player for the Black Ferns Sevens and one of New Zealand’s top sporting women – in 2016 she was named NZ Player of the Year, and was a finalist for International Player of the Year.
‘I saw the TRYathlon advertised but there wasn’t an event in Palmy so I asked my parents if they’d drive me to Taupo so I could participate, and they did.’
While Sarah doesn’t remember much about the details of her first TRYathlon, she does recall the feelings that inspired her to participate twice more, and then go on to pursue a career in professional sport.
‘I’m competitive, but it was never about winning – I absolutely loved the idea of being part of this massive event, where I was surrounded by other kids doing the same thing, and being cheered on by so many people. Parents, friends, helpers, locals – they are all so supportive. It made me feel fantastic – it’s incredibly inspiring. I also remember really wanting to win a spot prize – but I never did’
While the event consists of three sports – cycling, swimming and running – Sarah says that while she was playing netball and swimming at school, she didn’t train prior to the event. ‘I’d never have trained back then – I was such a lazy kid!’ she laughs.
‘I just liked the idea of doing something as part of a group. I also loved swimming in the lake at Taupo, as we used to go there every year on holiday. That was a real highlight for me. But my main goal for the TRYathlon was simply just to finish it, and to know I’d accomplished something.’
Sarah went on to do another two TRYathlons – but it was at that first life-changing TRYathlon that she caught the eye of the Sanitarium team. ‘I came home from school one day, and my granddad told me Sanitarium had rung to ask if they could put me on the front of a Weet-Bix box, and he’d said yes,’ she says.
‘None of us were sure if he was telling the truth, so we just carried on. Then a few weeks later we were away for the weekend, and took a trip to the local supermarket. We went down the cereal aisle – and there was my face on the Weet-Bix box! We had honestly thought Granddad was joking!’
As Sarah grew, so did her competitiveness, and after honing her skills at boarding school in her teens, Sarah began concentrating on her rugby career – at exactly the right time. ‘I wanted to keep achieving, and I had a lot of friends who were playing rugby. I loved it – and then it became an Olympic sport so that’s the path I chose.’ She is currently training regionally before the series kicks off in December, and is looking to the next big goal – the 15th Rugby League World Cup in August 2017. And it all started with the Weet-Bix Kids TRYathlon.
Although she’s added to her collection since then, Sarah still has her Weet-Bix TRYathlon medals at her parents’ house. ‘My parents still have the picture of me on the box too!’ she laughs. And she is very much looking forward to seeing the next generation of kids feel the excitement and sense of accomplishment she felt as a kid.
‘The Weet-Bix TRYathlon is incredibly inspiring – it still inspires me,’ says Sarah, who will be at several of the 16 TRYathlon events around the country, over the coming summer. ‘It made me want to keep active, and made me want to be in a team sport. The enjoyment of having so many people around you, supporting you, is great – and you get a free T-shirt and medal.’
Sarah’s Top TRYathlon Tips