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Thursday, April 24, 2014

Gardner wants to go out on top

Sam Gardner celebrates his victory in the 2011 XTERRA Saipan Championship.  (Roselyn B. Monroyo) United Kingdom’s Sam Gardner wishes to win XTERRA Saipan Championships anew before he retires.

“If there’s one race I would love to win again before I retire it’s XTERRA Saipan,” said Garnder in an email to Saipan Tribune last week.

Though the 27-year-old triathlete did not say when he is calling it quits, retirement beacons, as he has been slowing down the past two years because he is dividing his time with work, family, and training.

“Having a full-time job as a firefighter and also running a small business and looking after our lovely baby, it is hard for me to train like the other guys,” said Gardner, who will be up against fellow former winner Olivier Marceau, defending champion Ben Allen, and three other competitive pros in next month’s XTERRA Saipan.

Gardner held the XTERRA Saipan men’s title for three straight years (2009 to 2011), but missed last year’s edition of the Crown Jewel of XTERRA World Tour, as he had to be with his wife, who gave birth on the exact day (March 24) XTERRA Saipan took place.

Next month, the U.K. pro will try to reclaim his lost crown and he will have his wife Susan, daughter Abigail, and his mom around to inspire him to win the March 9 off-road triathlon race.

“I can’t wait to be back on the island. My wife Susan, and our baby Abi are coming out and also my mom. I very much missed seeing all my Saipan friends as much as the race itself. I missed floating round the lazy river at the PIC with a beer in my hand after the race, too,” said Gardner, who will arrive on Saipan with his family on March 4.

Before the race on Saipan, Gardner will compete first in XTERRA Philippines in Cebu this Saturday and will also try to regain the championship he won during the inaugural event in 2011. His performance in XTERRA Philippines will be the gauge of his preparation for the XTERRA Asian Tour, which will conclude in Guam on March 23.

“We will see in the Philippines how far behind I am, and I’ll be going faster on Saipan I’m sure,” said Garner, who only competed in a few races last year, including XTERRA US and XTERRA World where he placed 10th and 21st, respectively.

After the XTERRA World in Hawaii in October, Gardner took a short break and then resumed his training for XTERRA Asian Tour early this year.

“I have been injured for running for five weeks and not running at all. My swimming and biking are super strong though,” said Gardner, who is looking forward to meeting his daughter at the finish line of XTERRA Saipan.

“If I win, I have to dedicate it to Susan for putting up with my racing and traveling for so long. I’d love to cross the line carrying Abi though, whether I win or not,” he added.

Volunteers needed

Meanwhile, organizers of XTERRA Saipan are looking for volunteers. Interested individuals are asked to contact Bobbi Grizzard via email bobbi.grizzard@gmail.com or call 483-9464 for more information.

“It’s a great way to be involved and see what’s happening, who’s running, who’s biking, who’s ahead, who’s not. You will see the pros. You will see Saipan’s best athletes. You will see your friends,” Grizzard wrote in an email sent to NMITF members.

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