When New Zealand IRONMAN champion Terenzo Bozzone was involved in a hit and run on a training ride in the Auckland in July, it resulted in a range of serious injuries that included concussion and broken eye socket (requiring three titanium plates) and a bike snapped in two by the impact.
Emergency services treated Terenzo on the scene for almost three hours before transferring him to Auckland Hospital where he was operated on and began his slow and painful recovery. Bozzone considers himself very lucky to have survived the crash but now, five months later, he is heading to IRONMAN 70.3 Western Sydney (25 November) to make his dramatic return to racing.
One of the most successful competitors on the world circuit Terenzo’s remarkable form of 2017 flowed across into the new year. Mid-year he was primed for a big race at the IRONMAN World Championships in October, but in a matter of seconds his whole world changed.
“My 2018 kicked off with a hiss and a roar and I finally won IRONMAN New Zealand in March, a couple of other 70.3s in Argentina, Mexico, Busso and third at IRONMAN Cairns, so things were looking really good and optimistic for Kona I was really excited about how the year started but when I got knocked off my bike it really changed the trajectory of things and my perspective. I thank my lucky stars every day that I am alive and here to be with my family. Life is a very fragile thing at times, for sure,” he said.
Laying in a hospital bed battered and bruised, Terenzo and his amazing support team started negotiating the long, uncertain and hard road to recovery.
“To be honest most of the memories from the early period are a bit hazy with the concussion and being knocked out in the accident but I was very fortunate that my sports physician has a concussion clinic on the side of their practice so I was in there by the end of the week after the accident creating a protocol for getting back into exercise. They actually had me on a wind trainer every day for 30 minutes for the first few weeks building up.”
“It was very slow and every time I tried to push things a little bit hard I would pay the price and the headaches and fatigue would kind of come in a lot harder and take a while to wear off. But I was very fortunate to have a pretty good team monitoring things. There was a lot of balance and vision type exercises that I had to go through just to regain the stability and normality on that side of things. Then there was a bunch of strengthening exercises because some of my muscles took a decent hit in the accident and there was a wasting in a couple of muscle areas.”
“It was never-ending and basically one doctor’s appointment after another. Chiropractors, physio, massage, body work, so it is a good thing to finally slow down a little. The light at the end of the tunnel was very exciting to see and just having perspective every day and having my family and young kids, who are growing into wonderful human beings in front of my eyes, has helped make that extra time at home so much more enjoyable.”
As the news of the crash flashed around the world, messages flooded in from shocked friends and fans who rallied to offer their support.
“I got a lot of support from people I know all over the world and from some I have never met, and I have been very fortunate on the emotional side of things with my family and my team around me. They have kept me on the straight and narrow, plus I have had great support from my close circle of people, including my sponsors and all my fans and everyone who follows me.”
“Everyone has given me so much support and encouragement and no one has put any pressure on me to get back to racing or get back to what I was in any sort of hurry. They have all signed up for being part of the journey. It has taken the strain off, knowing that everyone is on my team. Even without their pressure I have been putting enough pressure on myself. Originally it was to get back in shape and on the start line in Kona in October which wasn’t to happen.”
“Unfortunately, my recovery has taken a lot longer than anyone would have expected, maybe a little bit from me trying to keep pushing the envelope and trying to get back into it a little too soon. One of the biggest obstacles has been my Achilles. It has always slowed me down a little, but it hadn’t been a problem of late. When I started back running, having not had any running for a month or so post-crash, it decided to come back and bite me on the bum real good.”
“I now feel I am at a stage mentally, post concussion wise, where everything there has settled down really well and my Achilles is getting stronger and stronger all the time. I have only been running on the road for about a week so that is going to be interesting come race day, but my fitness is really good, and my swimming and bike are going extremely well.”
Bozzone knows that the world will be watching his return and while he will go in physically underdone, the emotion of being back with his mates doing what he loves and the support from his Aussie fans will give him a major boost.
“IRONMAN 70.3 Western Sydney is going to be my first time that I am toeing the line in a race since the accident. I am a little unsure of what to expect. I probably need to take a step back from my usual fighting ways where I go in expecting nothing but the best and just set small goals for myself until I can build back into things. With the lack of running, there is a little bit missing, but I am just really excited to be on the start line and part of the action again.”
“I am just thrilled that I haven’t had to pull the pin on my triathlon career but who knows how quickly that top end performance is going to come back to me. It will be great if it just comes back like it never disappeared but realistically it is a tough sport that we do and everyone is very competitive so it is probably going to take a little bit of work for me to get back standing on the top of the podium.”
“Who knows what is going to happen out there in Penrith. If my training is anything to go by there is no reason to worry about holding back with anything. It will just be monitoring things on the day and fortunately my wife is coming with me to be a part of my first race back. She will be standing on the sideline and her smile will keep me going.”
“I haven’t raced at Western Sydney before. I have tried the last couple of times to get there but I haven’t been able to make it work so this is my first time and I always like racing against the Aussie boys Tim Reed, Appo and Berks. They are always tough competitors and they won’t want to give an Aussie title to a Kiwi very easily. I wouldn’t have it any other way,” he said.