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Canadian man training for Ironman triathlon in Antarctica

Connor Emeny recently became the youngest person in the world to complete an Ironman triathlon on six continents. Now, he is working towards becoming the first person to do it on all seven continents, with Antarctica as his final obstacle.

One of his goals is to prove, with determination and a little bit of dreaming, anything is possible.

An Ironman-distance triathlon is widely considered to be one of the hardest single-day sporting events on the planet, with 2.4-mile (3.9-kilometre) swim, 112-mile (180.2-km) bike ride and a 26.2-mile (42.2-kilometre) run.

“It’s just a reflection of all the hard work people don’t see in that race, because you can’t just show up to one of those not prepared and finish it,” Emeny told CTVNews.ca in an interview on Friday.

“People that aren’t afraid to be a doer, I think really give people hope that anything is possible.”

The Vancouver resident completed an Ironman triathlon on six continents – five of them in the span of 18 months and his most recent race this past March.

Now, at 27-years-old, he is preparing to compete in King George Island in Antarctica, the final continent on his list, in January 2024.

FROM RINKS TO WORLD RACES

Raised in a household of sports enthusiasts, Emeny’s competitive spirit was ignited early on; although he wasn’t competing in triathlons right away.

While competitive hockey was his primary focus, he dabbled in various sports—from badminton to ping pong to rugby—always driven by curiosity and a desire to surpass his own limitations, and that of his two older brothers.

“I was always curious (about) what I was capable of. And I have two older brothers so they were always better than me. I wanted to find something that I could be better at than them,” he said.

It was at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ont. that his passion for triathlons was born, and as he explored new sports, he tried out for the university’s team with two friends.

“One of them couldn’t swim, so he didn’t make it past the swim test. The other one, his bike tire popped, so he didn’t make it past the bike test. And somehow, I did well enough to make the team,” he said.

At the triathlon club, Emeny met Ben Rudson, a fellow student-athlete, who he credits as the catalyst for his Ironman journey.

“He went off and completed an Ironman and later went to the World Championships for our age group. And I just thought that was so incredible. It just blew my mind,” Emeny recounted.

“If he can do it, why can’t I do it?”

Connor Emeny celebrates at the finish line of his second international Ironman triathlon in Chattanooga, Tennesse, U.S. on Sep. 25, 2021. (Submitted by Connor Emeny)

‘DARE TO DREAM’: SETTING A WORLD RECORD

The pandemic was a pivotal time for many people, but for Emeny, it became an opportunity to set a new goal.

The Toronto-born athlete had just finished his first Ironman triathlon on March 7, 2020 in New Zealand, shortly before the world virtually shut down at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In the following 60 days, during the initial COVID lockdowns in New Zealand, where he lived at the time, he learned about Australian Jacqui Bell, the youngest person to run an ultra marathon on all seven continents.

Inspired by her story, he set a personal goal to do the same on six continents, but instead of marathons, he would race in Ironman triathlons. 

Connor Emeny at his fifth triathlon in Subic Bay, Philippines on March 6, 2023. (Submitted by Connor Emeny)As the world slowly reopened, and in-person sporting events returned, Emeny started signing up for races.

“The cool thing about Ironman is, all these races are in places that don’t come top of mind for a travel destination, they’re all in very unique cities,” said Emeny.

By March 2023, he achieved his goal.

Although the journey has been physically and mentally taxing, Emeny says he keeps one motto on his mind: dare to dream.

“Dare to dream, and once you have your vision, just make it happen,” said the athlete pointing at his black shirt that reads “make it happen” in white letters.

TRAINING FOR ANTARCTICA

A triathlon has three disciplines: swimming, biking and running. However, Emeny says he considers “mindset” the fourth discipline.

Connor Emeny ice swim training for his upcoming Inronman triathlon in Antarctica. Emeny said he is been doing a lot of cold exposure swimming with a special wetsuit that’s thicker and going into lakes to simulate what the conditions will be like on his next continental triathlon. (Submitted/Justis Cooper)

“I think Antarctica really will come down to the mindset…Can I enjoy the cold? Can I enjoy the unknown? There’s no race spectators, the loneliness, all these things that will be mentally difficult, as well as physically,” he said.

Emeny said besides his usual physical training, he has incorporated new structures to his routine to strengthen his mind and prepare for Antarctica conditions like cold exposure through ice baths, breathing techniques and sound baths every Tuesday.

“I’m really excited for, I know most people don’t say this, but for the weather to get colder, so I can really ramp that up in these next couple of months,” he said.

Before his Antarctica race, Emeny also has two upcoming events, a 42.2 km polar circle marathon in Kangerlussuaq, Greenland and an Arctic ocean triathlon in Tuktoyaktuk, Canada.

WHAT HAPPENS AFTER CONQUERING ALL 7 CONTINENTS?

As his personal journey has unfolded over the last three years, Emeny said his mindset has transitioned from becoming a better, faster or stronger athlete to focusing on the people, culture and new experiences.

“I’ve realised it’s not so much about the journey or the destination, it’s more about the company,” he said.

When it comes to next goals, Emeny said he wants to focus on training and the ongoing filming of a documentary about his journey.

He said he is also focusing on coaching others and is working on writing a book to chronicle his adventures. 



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