All athletes have their own beginnings, path and inspirations and all have been through hard times that ultimately made them who they are. Bryce McMaster, a talented member of Thanyapura Pro Triathlon Team from New Zealand who has made a number of victory in swimming and running, is one of those who has overcome many big obstacles that passed by his life and remained a shining star in his triathlon career.
A Rough Kick Off
“I got burnt when I was 2 years old by boiling water. I got third-degree burns on 20 percent of my body which was quite high for a two-year-old then second-degree burns on 10 percent of my body and first-degree burns on over than 20 percent so, overall about 50 percent. I spent two years at the hospital for plastic surgery, wore pressure suit to protect the burn from getting infected. It was a pretty tough childhood but it’s what made me strong now,” Bryce recalled.
After getting heal from blisters, got through plastic surgery and many medications for a long while, the three-year-old Bryce began the rehab for his movements by practicing swimming and that’s the beginning of one of the world’s greatest young swimmer later on.
“I lost a lot of movement in my shoulders and my arms so, the doctor suggested to do swimming to get the rotation back, to move my arms and to strengthen the muscles that have been weaken from the surgery so, after the burnt I’ve been into swimming and fell in love in water, swimming and being active.
On the Peak of an Athlete
Bryce has continued swimming since the rehab and started racing at the age of 6 until 18 competing at an elite level. When he reached 12 he started winning state and national medals for swimming.
“I was also always running. Basically just for a bit of fun, just to change it up from swimming but I ended up winning and my swim coach told me we should give triathlon a go and at that stage, I was losing interest in swimming and got sick at staring at a black line so, I thought, why not.”
“I fell in love with triathlon since the age of 18; I started racing at triathlon festivals. Ever since then I’ve been addicted and I raced every single distance from super sprint to ironman and I loved every single minute of it. It’s my passion. I’ve travelled to some amazing places throughout Asia, Europe, and America. I have been privileged to see the world at amazing paces. It’s been really exciting. For me, triathlon isn’t just a sport. It’s been an amazing journey,” said Bryce.
At the age of 22, he was ranked in the top 50 in the world. Started on triathlon series, finishing in the top 20 at world triathlon’s series and world cup races, finishing at Top 10 and won a couple of races in Europe.
“I was pretty successful. My success came very quickly and I am a very competitive person. I think that what makes me a strong athlete. I don’t like to lose and I like to push hard.”
“My strong point is definitely swimming. I’m always in the top 5 swimming athletes and my run definitely my second best. This is what I like about triathlon. It’s not about one sport that you can be good at but you have to be strong at all three; swim, run, and cycling. Or four actually because the transition between the three is counted,” he explained.
The Darkest Days
Though the athlete path of him looked perfectly bright, for the last few of years, Bryce has gone through a heavy time that made him stepped away from triathlon and spent the last 18 months away from sports doubting himself.
“I just missed out on common game’s selection and that’s what hit me pretty hard then I went through a divorce and again, it hit me hard. I suffered from depression and anxiety. Obviously, racing triathlon and suffering from depression and anxiety don’t work well together so, I decided to stop and get back to find who I was as a person and who I was as an athlete and ended up sitting for a year before starting the training again.”
After a while, he finally found out, the cure for depression and anxiety is to work on the inner strength.
“That was the hardest thing for me to overcome. The hardest moment was not that I had been through injury but it is definitely the depression and anxiety. When the mind cracks, the body can’t function. The mind is the most powerful part for me.”
“I have got a great family and friends that are always supportive but it’s hard to talk about depression to someone else how you actually suffer with. There was a lot of dark days and the days that I just want the pain to end and I felt alone in this world, so it’s all about my will and strength to take each day as it counts. I just had to keep having faith that there’s a light at the end of the tunnel.”
Bryce is Back
It took him over a year to overcome the worst moment of his life before he found that day when the light shines through the darkness.
“That day came to me around January to February this year and that’s when I started training again and really got into it. If the mind can envision it, the body can do it and I have a strong mind now. I have got the right people around me to help support that.”
“Deciding whether I wanted to be an athlete for a career or just do it for fun was a hard choice but finally, I found that for me, being competitive and being back to racing at the top was something I always wanted to do. It makes me stronger as a person and Thanyapura team really gives me the chance to step back up and be the top level professional that I know I can be and I know that I will be in coming months,” he said with a smile.
He concluded that his will to live and prove the world that he is a real and successful athlete is what pushes him through the hard test of his life. It was also a life changer that made him a better one.
“My will to live and to be a successful athlete and show the world what I can do was the biggest push for me. I really want to inspire people to see that I was burnt when I was young and I’ve gone through this now. It’s a challenge that you have to overcome. It’s a way of testing you. For me, it’s good and I am a lot stronger mentally now comparing to when I was 22, a cheeky little young adult. Now I’m a lot more respectful and humble thanks to what I went through.”
Bryce said that the pain from the past also taught him that the moment he feels bad, it might not be the worst compared to the past, or to some other people who are facing a tougher life.
“Here is my way of looking at life now; there’s always someone that’s worse than what you are going through at that time. You might be in pain, hurt, you might want to stop, it might be hot outside and you just want to stop but at the end of the day, there are kids that are starving and they would laugh at me in my shoes, being able to race. The day I decided to do it, it wasn’t just for me. It’s also for everyone else that can’t do it.”
Pierre practised concentration and insight meditation intensively from 2010 to 2012, then went on to study meditation at Wat Suan Mokkh with the venerable Ajahn Po from 2013 to 2015. As well as his own practice, he has coordinated meditation retreats in the south of Thailand which were attended by more than 1,000 people.
Having a great passion in the field of neuroscience, he likes to integrate these concepts into meditation practice. He believes that much of our life is lived resisting and defending against internal and external experiences that people perceive as threats. Through the development of concentration and meditation, we can insightfully see that all experiences are harmless and there is no need to defend of contract around them. Pierre has experience coordinating concentration and insight meditation retreats, teaching the relationship that exists between Buddhism and neuroscience.