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CUP book

Never, Ever Give Up? A memoir

17 October 2023

By John Hellemans 


August 2018
240pp, softback
228 x 152 mm

John Hellemans looks back on his long career in triathlon, initially as a successful competitor, and subsequently as a coach and sports medicine doctor for some of New Zealand’s best-performing triathletes.

Hellemans won six national titles and represented New Zealand at several world championship events and the 1990 Commonwealth Games. As an amateur he has won eight age-group world championship titles. Erin Baker, Jenny Rose, Craig Watson, Ben Bright, Kris Gemmell, Rachel Klamer, Maaike Caelers and Andrea Hewitt figure amongst the many triathletes he has coached at world championship and Olympic level.

Never Ever Give Up

In this frank, entertaining and often poignant account he provides a fascinating insight into the professional triathlon world and its personalities. His exploration of the compulsive attraction of one of the toughest sports, which has kept him hooked into his 60s, will appeal to anyone with an interest in human nature as well as to sports enthusiasts.

Hellemans relives significant episodes from his family life in Holland where he grew up under the threat of the Cold War, and recounts his adventures as a young doctor in rural New Zealand, adjusting to a different culture and its customs.

As well as relating his own trials, triumphs and tribulations in the sport, Hellemans describes the courage and determination of athletes he has coached, as they overcame injury and other setbacks to compete at world level and he shares the excruciating intensity of watching when they sometimes came to grief.

Never, Ever Give Up? explores the motivation that kept Hellemans going back for more and that saw him complete the gruelling Hawaii Ironman in searing heat at the age of 60. Less than two years later, he suffered an exercise-induced cardiac event after a local cross-country run. Was his body telling him that it was time to give up?

Dr John Hellemans has combined his triathlon activities with a medical career since immigrating to New Zealand from Holland in 1978. John coaches at the Canterbury Triathlon Academy and advises the national High Performance Programme. He lives in Christchurch where he continues to practise sports medicine.

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