"Sporting Stories": Josiah Ney
"Sporting Stories" is a series of interviews that features athletes from around the globe. Whether they race on the world stage or at a club level, my aim is to give them a platform to share their stories, and to give you an insight into their lives, backgrounds and mindsets. I hope it will inspire you and show you that anything is possible if you are passionate and committed.
If you're not familiar with the name Josiah Ney, you should probably start getting to know him. Born in 2000, Josiah started triathlon at a young age, continuously improving over the years to now be selected to join the Canadian national team. I met Josiah in November at the elite Asian Cup in Ipoh, Malaysia, where he had a very solid performance, but I was arguably more impressed by how humble, open and generous he is (not to mention his karaoke skills...).
I hope this interview gives you a good insight into who Josiah is, as well as his attitude towards training and racing. Indeed, his experiences in triathlon and unique upbringing have taught him to put things into perspective and to not take things for granted - skills that I believe we should all strive to develop.
Hi Josiah, how are you today?
Good but tired! First day back training after a week off... 6k in the pool never felt so long.
What training have you done/got on today?
Just the swim as it's the first week back before I start building into the next block.
Last weekend you had a successful hit out at the Asian Cup in Ipoh, Malaysia, finishing 10th in a strong field. How did you feel the race went?
Yeah, it wasn’t bad. I really wished the course had been a bit more challenging. My swim and bike are solid at the moment and I felt like I never really got to put them to use. I had a decent run off the bike, not the best but it could have been worse. I suppose it’s a good step in the right direction but nothing phenomenal.
Post-race karting in Ipoh with Josiah and other athletes from Singapore, Hong Kong and Australia.
Can you give us a bit of background about yourself and how you got into triathlon?
I got into triathlon at the age of 9 after watching Simon Whitfield at the 2008 Olympics on T.V. I thought: “Wow, you get to do three sports in a row, that seems cool!” I gave it a crack and have been hooked ever since.
How was it like growing up in Tanzania and Uganda? Do you think those early experiences have helped shape who you are as an athlete/person?
It was a really cool upbringing. I think as an athlete it’s really easy to look at sport as a grind or sacrifice. When you grow up surrounded by people who, even if they have amazing talent, will never be able to become professional athletes merely due to their circumstances, it really puts it all in perspective. On those hard training days where you just don't want to do it, it helps you remember that being able to train and race is a privilege, not a chore.
Enjoying the process.
You currently represent Canada, having previously represented New Zealand. Why the switch?
Two reasons, really. Firstly, growing up as a kid I dreamed of the Olympics and I dreamed of representing Canada while being there. So this move is a chance for me to really try and realise that dream. Secondly, the opportunities and training environment in Canada are world class and at some point, if you’re really going to try and make it, you have to be selfish and choose the path that you think is best for you.
Chasing his dreams reppin' the maple leaf.
This year you were balancing work with training. How do you manage both?
It’s been a big challenge. I didn’t realise how tough it had been until I was on my training break last week and I went: "Wow, how have I managed to fit it all in?" I work 8-hour days 3 times a week so the 2 days off are easy, but the work days are long as I'm usually either training or at work from 5am to 7pm. That means breakfast is eaten in the car on the way to work post swimming etc.
Next year you will be training and travelling full time with the Canadian national squad, supporting Tyler Mislawchuk in his quest for Paris 2024. First of all, congratulations – what an exciting opportunity! However, it probably also means a lot of expectations and pressure to perform and deliver in training, as well as in races. How are you feeling about it?
I’m honestly just really excited, it’s been an opportunity I’ve been chasing for a while now. I’ve already met most of the squad; I trained and raced with them for a month this year. It’s an awesome group of guys and I think it’ll be really fun. It also helps that I know I’m bringing a specific skill to the squad: having grown up in the surf here in New Zealand, my open-water swim skills are pretty solid and the Canadians have expressed their interest in learning some of these skills - hence the squad invite.
Getting ready to take out the swim the only way he knows: hard and fast.
Having trained and raced alongside the best in the world, are there any athletes you particularly admire, and what makes them stand out to you?
There’s no specific person that stands out, I think you can learn something from everyone.
What have you learnt from training with the likes of Hayden Wilde and Tayler Reid, for example?
They're both very different in their approaches. I can’t recall how many times I’ve had to wait for Tayler at training, he’s always late. Hayden certainly comes across as your more ‘professional’ athlete but he doesn’t really like training with other people. I’ve definitely had more fun training with Tayler, and I admire his approach to it. Of course, he’s very dedicated, but he still seems to be able to switch off when not in training, which I think is a valuable skill.
With the New Zealand crew.
What would you say have been your greatest challenges/set-backs and achievements in your career so far?
All my injuries, especially shin splints. I’ve had a lot of lower leg injuries which is frustrating when running is my weakness, but I suppose it helps show you how much you want it. The comeback is easy - it’s the sitting out for a bit when injured that sucks. In terms of achievements, making this squad is probably at the top of this list. I’m hoping it’ll be the stepping stone needed to really crack the World Cup circuit in 2023.
Your family is very much involved in triathlon, with your brothers competing as well and your parents eventually giving it a go to have an idea of what it’s about. Do you think this made a difference in your development? How was the sibling rivalry?!
Yes definitely, having my brothers always chasing me has been brilliant for all our developments as athletes. I actually had such a great time training here in New Zealand during lockdown as I just got to train with them every day. The sibling rivalry has always been big but training with your brothers is cool because you can really talk shit and egg each other on, knowing that at the end of the day you’re all supporting one another. I think it's a dynamic that's sometimes difficult to find in a squad.
Josiah with his parents and two brothers, Caleb and Matthew.
What are your long-term ambitions in triathlon, and in your personal life?
In triathlon: to make the Olympics. I’m looking at the 2026 Commonwealth Games and then the 2028 Olympics as the long-term goals. Outside of tri, I really want to do my master's in physio. I’ve done my kinesiology bachelor's and loved it so really want to top it off with a master's.
What do you enjoy doing outside of triathlon, and how will you be spending your off-season?
I love surfing and mountain biking. I didn’t really get much of an off-season, only one week, but I did get out on the mountain bike and will get out surfing a bit over the next little bit while training is still chill.