New Zealand’s Braden Currie takes the term multisport athlete to a new level.
The Christchurch-born talent did not develop the sporting goal of becoming the first Kiwi male to win the IRONMAN World Championship via a conventional path.
Currie developed a sense of adventure and a love of the outdoors from a young age, growing up on a farm on the South Island.
Braden says he is a “simple Kiwi man at heart,” and outside of his athletic exertions you’ll find him “mowing lawns, driving machinery, building stuff and chopping down trees”.
His love of the outdoors was a natural fit with the sport of adventure racing and the Coast to Coast race (World Multi-Sport Championships) across the South Island presents one of the highest-profile events on home soil.
Currie was made for a challenge which features running, cycling and kayaking and which covers a distance of more than 240km. After finishing third on his first attempt in 2006, he would return in future years to claim four titles back-to-back between 2013 and 2016.
Currie would also soon find more sporting avenues to follow.
Be like water
One discipline missing from the Currie sporting arsenal in his early days was swimming. Picking up the sport in your mid-20’s is a challenging task as developing the mythical feel for the water is best achieved as a young athlete, but Braden’s progress was unusually rapid. He puts that down to his kayak experience.
“Paddling teaches you a lot about the water. You get to see your paddle enter the water, catch the water, pull the water, and then exit,” he says.
“That’s what gave me a base for swimming. I got in the pool and was like, ‘All right, what does my paddle do?’ From there I just got the hang of it.”
Adding his newly-acquired aquatic skills, triathlon was the next target and after to committing to the sport full-time in 2013, he was soon delivering results once again.
Off-road XTERRA racing was a natural choice with his mountain-biking experience. Fifth on his debut (2013) and second (2015) at the World Championship in Maui were added to a string of podium performances, including New Zealand and Asia Pacific Championship titles. An ITU Cross Triathlon World Championship Bronze followed in 2016.
A natural endurance athlete, it was inevitable that middle and long-distance road-based triathlon would also feature on the Currie racing schedule.
With Challenge Wanaka on his doorstep, the half distance event saw him start with a win in 2013, before he added New Zealand Championship titles, at Olympic and long distance, a year later.
His victory at IRONMAN 70.3 Taupo in 2015 was a significant breakthrough at the top level, notable for losing less than a minute to uber-swimmer Dylan McNiece through the opening 1.9km discipline.
His full-distance debut would arrive at IRONMAN New Zealand in 2017, also in Taupo, and another victory was a fine way to announce his arrival over the longer distance, holding off 12-time winner Cameron Brown in the process.
That win would secure a first start at the IRONMAN World Championship in Hawaii in October. Despite leading early in the bike ride, any chances of a fairytale ending were ended by an early puncture.
“I would have loved to have pulled out but I just felt like it was a part of life that I had to go through,” said Braden.
“I made it to the finish. I’ll take the bright side away from it - my biking is there and my swimming is there and if I’m in the front and I’m feeling competitive then I can run. There’s always next year I guess.”
After the defeating the legendary Javier Gomez in Cairns at the Asia-Pacific Championship, hopes were rightly high for Currie’s return to Hawaii.
Puncture-free and with valuable experience on his side, Braden produced a superb display against the world’s best to secure a fifth-place finish on Ali’i Drive. A year later, seventh position more than proved his status in the top tier of the sport, as reflected by PTO World Rankings.
Finding his way, thanks to a wise teacher
While the outdoor environment and the Kiwi lifestyle have contributed significantly to Braden Currie’s sporting development, he attributes his success to “to a teacher who believed in him”.
Dyslexic, and regularly feeling isolated and inferior at school, it was a teacher who spotted his struggles and started turning up to school early every morning to run with the young Braden. That teacher provided the route to build back his confidence and provided the self-belief that everything is possible, “With commitment, dedication and heart”.
Those early lessons are very much mirrored by his outlook on life now. “Being a dad and sharing life's experiences with my kids and giving every day of life my best shot,” is what he is most proud of.
For a man renowned for his capacity to cope with the relentless grind and hard work required to succeed over many years in top-level sport, his favourite piece of training advice certainly resonates:
“Treat recovery as seriously as you treat your key sessions.”