This last week has been a bit of a whirlwind for Peter Cowan.
The 23-year-old youth worker recently returned from the World Waka Ama championships, held in Tahiti.
He is now a two-time world champion and has won two gold medals, a silver and two fourth placings.
“It feels unreal to be honest . . . to be able to represent my country, my club and my family,” he said.
“It's an honour. All the hard work and commitment . . . it’s paid off.”
Thousands of paddlers from around the world compete every year at the World Waka Ama championships.
Peter, who comes from Hastings, was part of the New Zealand para team taking part in the competition.
It was also the first time Peter competed in the individual competition.
But life hasn't always been smooth sailing for this world champion.
Eight years ago he lost his leg in a bike accident while he was training for the IronMaori triathlon.
“At that time I thought I might actually die,” he said.
“After my accident, I was told I wouldn’t be able to play sports or walk [again]. I was trying to be ‘Mr Optimistic’ but it cut me pretty deep. I couldn’t participate or do anything.”
Peter went on to serve a mission in Japan. After six months and several broken prosthetic legs, he was reassigned to a mission where he could use a car. He served in the Australia Sydney South Mission.
“My mission taught me resilience, persistence and pushing through trials, which was especially useful when I was preparing for the world champs.
“There were times when I doubted if could compete or wonder why I was giving up time with family to train. But I had to suck it up and do it.”
In preparation for the competition, Peter trained hard for six months, juggling his job as a youth worker and his calling as high priest in the Hastings 2nd Ward.
Peter was in the water six days a week, with early morning starts and having to put his social life aside.
“I know there are a lot of people who want to get out there and pursue their dreams but they might be shy,” he said.
“That’s okay because I’m normally shy. Just know you have nothing to lose and give it a go. Take all the opportunities you can because they open doors.”
And Peter makes sure to always pray before and after he races.
“I couldn’t do this without the Lords help,” he said.
“I'm always reminded of this when I try and do it my own way because I would encounter many obstacles, and so I always keep Him near.
“I always call upon the Lord before and after my races. I definitely pray for comfort.
“Prayer makes me feel happy no matter what result I get. The Lord helps me see my true potential in this sport and in my future.”
Peter also tries to be a light to those around him and lives by a motto ‘be a koha not a hoha’. He tries to be a blessing to those around him.
“I want to give people hope,” he said.
“People think hope is lost but it’s not. I want to inspire people along the way.”
Peter wants to thank everyone who donated to his campaign and all the messages of support he has received.
Peter is now preparing to compete in the waka ama long distance competition held this October.