New Zealand's gold medal-winning mountain biker Sam Gaze has endured a hellish year, suffering with COVID-19, double-knee surgery and mental health struggles.
But the toll has been worth it, following his top-of-the-podium finish at the Commonwealth Games, where he beat out compatriot Ben Oliver in Birmingham.
Gaze was his cool, calm and collected self after the victory, in what marked a special day for the two Kiwis at the Cannock Chase Forest.
"To liberate myself with this performance, it's a special day," he said.
The pair led the pack early in the race and never relented their advantage. With two and half laps to go, the now double-Games gold medallist made the decisive move.
Gaze finished 31s ahead of Oliver, but the podium could have been all-Kiwi affair if not for Anton Cooper being struck down with COVID-19.
"It's definitely a shame Anton isn't here. I think we're in a golden era of the sport in NZ and we deserved all three on the podium," Gaze said.
"Obviously we had to do the ride, but it's what the country deserved."
For Gaze, it's a time of celebration and reflection. His journey to gold hasn't just been a struggle for him.
"Every time I came back it was something after something, I drive my girlfriend up the wall," he said.
But after all of the driving up the wall, riding to gold, seems like a pretty good exchange.
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