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Mercy La'a crosses the finish line at the Weetbix Tryathlon

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Samoan pride shines through at Weetbix Tryathlon

Huntly cousins on running with national pride at the iconic event, and training as a family

Khalia Strong
Khalia Strong
Published
04 December 2023, 3:52pm
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A group of Huntly cousins brought their Samoan pride to the Weebix Tryathlon, donning the national flag to cross the finish line.

Mercy La’a says bearing a symbol of her culture helped her when the going got tough.

“When I was running, I was thinking ‘I can’t do it anymore’, but then I thought ‘if I have my flag behind me, kind of like my people supporting me, I can do this. I’m doing this for Samoa, it’s my first time, I’m going to make a difference, make people notice me’.”

In her age group, La’a had to swim 150m, cycle 8km and run 1.5km, and found the biking segment the biggest challenge.

“It was my second lap in the biking, and my legs were cramping, I couldn’t get up this big hill, and what helped me overcome was this awesome supporter there … he came and he helped me and pushed my bike up the hill.”

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Speaking the Ma’a Brian Sagala on Pacific Days, she says that was when inspiration struck.

“When I put my bike back, I saw the Samoan flag that I used as my bike marker. I decided to pick it up and my brother and I ran with it between us the whole way holding it in the air.

“My Mum was bawling her eyes out.”

Competing cousins: from left - Honor-Lupe Heslop, Keelan Te Mau and Mercy La'a

Twelve year old La’a was running with her cousins, Honor-Lupe Heslop and Keelan Te Maru (Safotu, Safune, Afega and Fagali’i). It was their first time taking part in the race, and Heslop says they spent time training as a family.

“I did a lot of biking to school, and I’d go on walks and runs with my Mum and Dad and little brother.”

Both are looking forward to competing again in this year’s event on Sunday, and Heslop encourages everyone to try it out.

“It’s a try-athalon. You don’t need to worry about what place you come or how well you did, you just do it and it’s a really good thing to look back on.”

“And you get a medal!” adds La’a. "Just do it ... just give it a go, and it's one of my last moments I ever had with my Nan, so it was just great memories with her."

The Weetbix Tryathlon is an annual event, with 1,600 participants aged 6-15 years across 11 locations. This year’s Hamilton event is on Saturday, 10th of December at the Waikato University Fields.