After his daughter lost her leg to cancer, he was given the chance to show her what’s possible in Kona.

Not exactly the way you’d want to have a party. Almost exactly one year before this year’s Ironman World Championships in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii, on Thanksgiving weekend 2021, the Richards family got the news: 13-year-old Samantha had osteosarcoma, the same cancer What did Terry Fox suffer from?

“I never thought that at such a young age I would be going through something as serious as cancer,” she said, apparently a world away from her home in Whitby, Ontario. I’m interviewing her at the Subaru Breakfast at the Ironman World Championship in Hawaii. “I didn’t fully believe it until I was taken to the hospital for my first chemotherapy. It was unimaginable and so terrifying.”

Samantha and her father, Geoffrey, are here in Kona because he had been voted the winner of Subaru Canada’s Road to Kona, giving him the opportunity to compete in an event that inspired him to become a triathlete. After Samantha’s diagnosis last year, the family’s focus has been on her, which meant Geoffrey was unable to prepare for a long-distance race. However, he was able to train enough to compete in Ironman 70.3 Victory this summer. Samantha’s twin sister, Abigail, made the trip west with him. While she was there, she saw the information about the Subaru Road to Kona awards program, soliciting nominations for athletes competing in the Ironman World Championship. She nominated her father. She wasn’t alone either. In the end, Geoffrey received over 40 nominations, many from members of the Durham Region Triathlon Club.

“She’s a fighter,” Geoffrey said of his daughter. “This is an opportunity for me to show Samantha what is possible.”

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Photo: Kevin MacKinnon

Geoffrey is not kidding. Samantha is a fighter. She still remembers asking the doctors if she was going to die if she didn’t undergo the chemotherapy treatments. (Yes, she would, they told her.) In time, she would lose her foot: she had a transtibial amputation just above her ankle. She now has a prosthesis and will eventually be able to be 100 percent active in sports; she really wants to play hockey again and hopefully she will be able to play at the AA level again. I guess her hockey aspiration to “play on my varsity team” could also be on the cards.

“I’ve gone rollerblading, it’s like riding a bike, you never forget it,” he said. “I was happy to be back on the ice. I hope that in the future I can play hockey again and live my life normally again.”

So what has she learned from the last year?

“Anything is possible, I guess,” he said, showing maturity well beyond his 14 years. “Good and bad. I didn’t know how many people cared so much about me. Just seeing the support everyone gave me has been incredible.”

For Geoffrey, that support has also been a pleasant surprise.

“One of the things we have learned is to lean on that support,” he said. “Whether it’s Samantha’s school, the hockey community, or the triathlon community for me, the support that’s out there, and your friends and your family, and your friends becoming family, is so inspiring.”

In the end, Geoffrey made it through the day in Kona, finishing the race in 11:10:50. Of course, there was never any doubt that she would cross the finish line – when you watch your daughter deal with the loss of a foot, it’s hard to complain about a day of racing, no matter how strong the wind or heat. But her efforts have also inspired her daughter to pursue her dreams.

“I know it has been inspired by me and my journey,” Samantha said. “Watching him do this course, which is incredibly difficult, it will be inspiring to see him get through it and cross the finish line.”