Welcome to the Evolving Man Project’s “Evolved Man of the Week” profile. Each week we will highlight an individual that embodies what it means to be an evolved person, famous and non-famous individual alike. The world needs to know their stories and deeds. This week’s honor goes to Londoner, triathlete, and trailblazer Sam Holness.
At 29 years old and having raced his first triathlon in 2016, both Sam and his Dad acknowledge that he is a late arrival to the sport but are keen to emphasize that this is not a deterrent to Holness’s aspirations to succeed in some of the most challenging triathlons on the planet.
Sam Holness has made waves as the first openly autistic triathlete. He states that he happens to be an athlete with autism. He claims that there are probably many professional athletes on the autism spectrum. Holness says that being an athlete with autism gives him an advantage over his competitors because it allows him to be super focused.
Sam’s attitude towards training and racing, which his coach describes as “focused, determined and driven,” means he’s often “the first at training and the last to leave,” which hasn’t gone unnoticed by some leading sports brands of triathlon. He headed into the Kona race; Sam had the backing of several sponsors, including Hoka running shoes, Cervelo bicycles, Stages Cycling, British brands HUUB wetsuits and clothing, SunGod sunglasses, and the British men’s skincare brand Man Cave.
The support of these brands, combined with the backing of his parents and coach Tony, could be the perfect combination for Sam as he continues to realize his dream of becoming the first professional triathlete with autism.
Here is Sam Holness in his own words:
“My autism probably plays a role in how energized I feel. My dad thinks it is crazy how I can rise and shine without ever thinking, I really don’t feel like training today. It’s routine to wake up and train every day except for Friday, my rest day. I just do it, even when I have to train in a heat chamber in temperatures of 104 degrees. During a race, I can cycle for 112 miles without losing concentration. I’ll tell myself, ‘Come on, legs,’ and keep going. It’s just how my brain works. I will never give up.
“Earning my degree in sports science has helped with many of the tools that are necessary to become a competitive triathlete. This includes the use of metrics like VO2 max, heart rate, and power output during cycling and running. I focus on increasing or decreasing those numbers to improve my performance. Last year, I completed the Ironman 70.3 World Championship in Utah, and a reporter said that I was the first autistic person to do it. My dad and I corrected them. I was the first openly autistic person. Autism is an invisible disease. We assumed there had to have been many autistic athletes competing. Sure enough, individuals started coming forward.”
We at the Evolved Man Project applaud Sam Holness and wish him the best of luck as he continues to make his mark in the world of professional triathlons. Today we honor Sam Holness as our Evolved Man of the Week.