Ironman 70.3 World Championship 2014 Qualifiers

Ironman 70.3 World Championship 2014 Qualifiers

The first list of qualifiers for the 2014 Ironman 70.3 World Championship in Mont Tremblant have been released and if all who’ve accepted make it to the start line, this will undoubtedly be the most hotly-contested edition since the event’s inception in 2007.

The reigning World champions Melissa Hauschildt and Sebastian Kienle are set to headline this year’s edition taking place on September 7 in Mont Tremblant, Canada.

Joining Kienle on the men’s list of athletes who’ve accepted their slot includes last year’s podium finishers Joe Gambles and Terenzo Bozzone, as well as in-form athletes Jan Frodeno, Tim Reed, Richie Cunningham, Andrew Starykowicz, Brad Kahlefeldt, Brent McMahon, Lionel Sanders, James Cunnama, Bevan Docherty, Craig Alexander and Ivan Raña among others. Jesse Thomas is not on the list yet, but he recently tweeted his invitation to race and has indicated he will be in Mont Tremblant. Expect there to be a couple more roll downs in the coming days.

There will also a big shadow cast over this event by the Spanish superstar Javier Gomez, who will compete in the Ironman 70.3 World Championships for the first time in 2014.

Ironman 70.3 World Championship 2014 Qualifiers

There are some notable athletes who’ve chosen not to accept their slot, including Andy Potts, Tim O’Donnell, Bertrand Billard, Casey Munro, Tyler Butterfield and Paul Matthews.

The women’s list of July qualifiers is pretty incredible too, with Annabel Luxford, Heather Wurtele, Catriona Morrison, Svenja Bazlen, Meredith Kessler, Daniela Ryf, Helle Frederiksen, Angela Naeth, Lisa Hütthaler and Radka Vodickova to name a few.

Given she will be racing the Ironman 70.3 European Championships and Ironman Sweden it’s not surprising to see the 2012 World champion Leanda Cave turn down her slot.

Qualification for the Ironman 70.3 World Championship wrapped up on July 27, 2014 and this year will also be the first on the new rotating system announced by World Triathlon Corporation last season. In total, 42 men and 32 women have accepted the opportunity (at this stage) to race at this year’s Ironman 70.3 World Championship.

Ironman 70.3 World Championship 2014 Qualifiers

NOTE: This is not the final list, more spots will roll down and we will update the names below over the coming days.

1 Terenzo Bozzone NZL
2 Tim Reed AUS
3 Sebastian Kienle DEU
4 Joe Gambles AUS
5 Tim Don GBR
6 Jan Frodeno DEU
7 Richie Cunningham AUS
8 Will Clarke GBR
9 Leon Griffin AUS
10 Andrew Starykowicz USA
11 Brad Kahlefeldt AUS
12 Kevin Collington USA
13 Matt Chrabot USA
14 Samuel Appleton AUS
15 Tim Van Berkel AUS
16 Brent Mcmahon CAN
17 Lionel Sanders CAN
18 Callum Millward NZL
19 Ruedi Wild CHE
20 Jeremy Jurkiewicz FRA
21 Ben Hoffman USA
22 Trevor Wurtele CAN
23 Igor Amorelli BRA
24 Andreas Dreitz DEU
25 Filip Ospaly CZE
26 Josh Amberger AUS
27 Bevan Docherty NZL
28 Nils Frommhold DEU
29 James Cunnama ZAF
30 Javier Gomez ESP
31 Craig Alexander AUS
32 Clayton Fettell AUS
33 Albert Moreno ESP
34 Stuart Marais ZAF
35 Ben Collins USA
36 James Seear AUS
37 Alex Reithmeier AUS
38 Boris Stein DEU
39 Bart Aernouts BEL
40 Domenico Passuello ITA
41 John Polson AUS
42 Ivan Raña ESP
1 Melissa Hauschildt AUS
2 Annabel Luxford AUS
3 Catriona Morrison GBR
4 Heather Wurtele CAN
5 Heather Jackson USA
6 Svenja Bazlen DEU
7 Lisa Huetthaler AUT
8 Meredith Kessler USA
9 Jodie Swallow GBR
10 Daniela Ryf CHE
11 Helle Frederiksen DNK
12 Radka Vodickova CZE
13 Amanda Stevens USA
14 Angela Naeth CAN
15 Rebekah Keat AUS
16 Melanie Mcquaid CAN
17 Margaret Shapiro USA
18 Rachel Mcbride CAN
19 Susie Hignett GBR
20 Ruth Brennan Morrey USA
21 Valentina Carvallo CHL
22 Laura Bennett USA
23 Emma-kate Lidbury GBR
24 Camilla Pedersen DNK
25 Mary Beth Ellis USA
26 Mirinda Carfrae AUS
27 Lauren Barnett USA
28 Michelle Wu AUS
29 Amber Ferreira USA
30 Magali Tisseyre CAN
31 Laura Siddall GBR
32 Hallie Blunck USA


Dan Atkins is quietly building himself an impressive stable of athletes up in Queensland in the junior and under-23 ITU ranks.’s Liam Bromilow caught up with Dan recently to find out a bit more about the talented coach.

On a rainy, blowy, Sunday afternoon I had the opportunity to meet team Dan Atkins. It’s a close-knit family of four with Dan, wife Katie, and two girls – six-year-old Ella and three-year-old Molly. At heart, Dan is a family man who loves his wife and kids, but get him on the training paddock and he’s as tough as nails with an intensity and focus of a Mensa recruit. But really, Dan’s family extends to 15 plus because if you sit and listen to him talk about his athletes, his smile glows with love and admiration. I took the opportunity to sit down with the talented coach over a plate of Subway Cookies and left with the following.

How did you get involved in triathlon?

I started triathlon way back in 1989 when I was at school. I was a footy player but always trained outside of football, particularly swimming and running. I saw a flier for a triathlon one day and went out and bought a bike. I raced, and all I remember was chucking up my guts at the finish line, but it gave me so much pride and sense of achievement that I was hooked. So I kept dabbling in triathlon but rugby league was my main sport until around 1993. The next year I competed in Noosa after doing some training with Brendan Terry. He was a no holds barred coach who trained athletes to their maximum.

Over time he began to see that I had coaching potential rather than competing potential, and suggested I take on a coaching role. Together we opened up a swim school at a small 25-metre pool at Wilston, in Brisbane. I developed as a swim coach, and over my time I coached a deaf child to an Australian record. After coaching the children of Michael Bohl (current swim coach of Stephanie Rice, Leisel Jones, Kendrick Monk, among others) he reiterated what Brendan Terry told me years earlier, and saw coaching potential in me. I had developed a special rapport with my athletes, and Bohl thought I could take some of them onto representative honours. I gave it my all, but we soon learnt that my passion was triathlon. From this (which was 2003), I developed DAT (Dan Atkins Training and Racing club) and I’ve grown from there.


Who did you mould your coaching philosophy on?

Again, it was Brendan Terry who impacted me the most as a coach. He was my first coach, and I loved the way he went about his business. I developed my methods and philosophy on how Brendan trained me through the ‘90s. We worked on the fact that every session should be as close to race-pace as possible. We don’t race slowly, so why train slowly? Obviously periodisation comes into play, but the important fact is to make sure consistency is developed and the athletes have the foundations to back up each day. I’ve experienced many things over the years and have come to learn that I need to question other coaches also, and use their knowledge to have impact on my athletes.

It’s easy to monitor how your athletes are going, but you do you assess how your coaching is going?

It takes a lot of reflection. Now being a high performance coach and having athletes compete at world championships and youth Olympics, I need to make sure that every session is the best possible for these guys. I take a lot of pride in what I do, so I’m brutally honest with myself in my reflections. I grade every session I do out of 5, and make sure it’s as close to a 5 as possible. Craig Walton has been a great influence on my coaching recently, and an excellent sounding board for some of my ideas.

Does coaching affect your Family life?

DAN ATKINS – THE LIFE OF A HIGH PERFORMANCE COACHCoaching is a 24/7 job, so it’s definitely hard to switch off at the end of the day. I’m always taking the job to bed with me, to the dinner table with me, even to the toilet with me. I struggle sometimes to let go. Leading up to the Auckland World Championships last year I had two girls that should’ve been put onto the Junior girls team, but the selection committee left it until a few weeks before to select the team. I fought tooth and nail to get both girls on the team, but, in the end, they only selected one. I took that one pretty hard. My family understands though, my wife Katie is the best you can get. She knows the relationships I work with and helps me out a lot.

What has been the highlight of your coaching career so far?

It’s hard to pinpoint because every day I have little wins and highlights. Getting any athlete onto a world championships team (such as Ryan Fisher and Emily Bevan last year) and Ryan winning an Australian junior title. But even the age group athletes I coach, it was amazing to see one of them race 33mins faster at Noosa last year, purely from trusting in the program and the process. That was a big win.

What advice would you give to coaches out there?

Most of all, ask questions! Get ideas off of others. We can’t know everything, so use other coaches as resources.

A few years ago (2011) you were an AIS scholarship coach. What was that experience like?

Shaun Stephens (former AIS triathlon coach) gave me a call and said an opportunity was coming up for a triathlon coach to spend 12 months working intensively with the AIS and develop their coaching. He said it was a great learning experience and would fast track my coaching education by about 5 years. I had to let go of DAT for the year, which is something that I really struggled with. It was thriving and taking leaps and bounds forward. I decided to accept the scholarship and worked at the QAS and AIS, particularly observing how a variety of high performances coaches work in a range of sports. It was a great learning opportunity and definitely something that has set me up to be where I am now.


Tell me about your High Performance squad in Brisbane and some of the names we can look out for?

DAT evolved from my need to coach. I wanted to be with athletes every day. I created my own High Performance group rather than following the Triathlon QLD pathway because I had my own blueprint, and honestly, I believe it works. The results show for themselves, with 7 girls (Emily Bevan, Sarah Deuble, Jodie Duff, Holly Grice, Anna Coldham, Brittany Dutton and Maddi Allen) ranked in the top 5 for their respective ages in Australia, and some junior boys (Harry Sweeney and Wyatt Westmoreland), who are about to hit the high performance scene. It has its good points in that we have flexibility to do our own program, but the flip side to that is that we receive no funding.

You recently parted ways with a potential superstar in Ryan Fisher, talk us through that.

In a sense it came on quick, but we also knew it was coming. We’ve been working together for a lot of years, and developed a big working relationship as well as friendship. The thing with Ryan is that he’s very much an individual and likes to make his own decisions. He was 100% committed at all times, but we just started to outgrow each other. He needed to try new things and train with new philosophies, and I didn’t want to hold him back from that. It’s left a massive hole in our squad with him leaving, but the squad is the better for having him there the last few years. I’m still Ryan’s number one fan and I can’t wait to see him medal at a big championship event in the near future.

What are your thoughts about the current state of the elite system in Australia?

I think we’re jumping the gun in labelling athletes as superstars or even saying that they won’t make it. They need time to grow and develop. Back when the F1 and St. George series were around, everyone had a chance to front up against each other and develop their skills against each other. They don’t have that at he moment. We need to get that carrot back in front of them to entice them to push each other and help each other along.

What are your thoughts on how we can beat the Brownlees?

Focussing on the Brownlees themselves will never work. We need to look at the fundamentals of coaching and training and what we’re doing on a daily basis to peg them back. At the moment they’re unstoppable because they’re so good in all three disciplines. We need our athletes working on their training to improve their three disciplines and compete with them on race day.

Inside the ’50 Women to Kona’ Movement

Inside the ’50 Women to Kona’ Movement

The push to get equal numbers for the men’s and women’s professional fields at the Ironman World championship is well and truly on. In this piece,’s Susan Lacke investigates the ’50 women to Kona movement’ .

In high school, Rachel Joyce wasn’t allowed to run the 1500-metre race on ‘Sports Day’. That was a “boys’ race,” her teachers said, and there was no girls’ equivalent.

Joyce, unwilling to accept that rule, took to the track and ran the 1500 metres solo in the first-ever girls’ race at her school.

“I felt passionately that as a girl, I should have the same chances as the boys,” recalls Joyce.

Today, Joyce runs much more than 1500 metres while racing. However, the Ironman champion remains a staunch supporter for gender equality in sport. Joyce is one of several pro women advocating for the ’50 Women to Kona’ movement, an initiative working to change the way the World Triathlon Corporation (WTC) allocates slots at the Ironman World Championships in Kona. Currently, there are 50 starting spots allocated for male pros; for females, only 35 starting spots are available – before automatic qualifiers.

“I want to see more women participating in sport and specifically triathlon,” says Joyce. “It is my view that having a disparity between the pro men and women starters sends out the wrong message to achieve this. It sends out the message that Ironman is more of a man’s thing than a woman’s. That just isn’t true.”

The push for equality has gained significant steam in recent months. Many more pros, including Beth Gerdes and Ironman Champion Mary Beth Ellis, have joined Joyce in advocating for equality in Kona.

Inside the ’50 Women to Kona’ Movement


Ellis has emerged as a leader in the initiative, helping to streamline and organise the message of her fellow athletes: “We’ve realised that it’s near impossible for WTC to listen to every voice. We wanted to find a way to unify so we can collaborate with them on ways to improve the sport.”

Gerdes says a key element of success has been identifying the goals and desired outcomes of all involved: “WTC is in fact a private business, and their job is to make money for their investors. It is not their obligation to ensure that women have equal opportunity in long course triathlon. However, with a vast market share in long course triathlon, I’d love to see them set an example for how we can promote the development of female talent in the sport. As age group women are a growing market share for WTC, I think that the top-down approach will benefit the business side in the long run as well.”

The group’s united efforts paid off, as Ironman CEO Andrew Messick recently agreed to sit down in with a panel of female pros including Joyce, Ellis, and Ironman World Champions Mirinda Carfrae and Leanda Cave. Several male pros, including Tim O’Donnell and James Cunnama, attended in a show of solidarity. Soon after the meeting, Messick announced in a press conference WTC would look at ways to implement an equal number of male and female starting spots in 2015. However, his statements hinted gender equality might come at a cost for male pros:

“The women we talked to were not at all focused on the number, they just wanted it to be the same. They didn’t particularly care if it was 55 and 55, or 40 and 40, or 30 and 30.  They just thought that as a matter of fundamental fairness that the number should be the same. So we’re going to look at that for 2015, but that might result in fewer men.”

Inside the ’50 Women to Kona’ Movement

Did the announcement reveal the selfish intentions of female pros to take away from the male field? Not quite, says Joyce. “The pro women don’t want to see the pro men penalised in order to achieve equality, but we did state that equality should be prioritised.”

Ellis agrees: “I don’t think any of the women want our progress to come at a cost of the men’s sport. I think ideally we can keep the men’s spots and grow the women’s spots over the next few years, with a clear timeline to reach equality in alignment with the increase of top-tier talent. As professionals, we want to create a dramatic, exciting event that garners so much media attention that we become invaluable to WTC and get the attention of some of the mainstream brand partners that support professional athletes around the world.”

The model proposed by female pros follows that of the International Triathlon Union, which touts gender equality as a core value. In addition to providing an equal amount of male and female starting spots and prize purses at ITU races, the federation prioritizes equal television airtime and media attention for males and females across all World Triathlon Series events.

“Look at ITU racing now,” exclaims Joyce, “the women’s race is as exciting as the men’s race, if not more exciting…the ITU is a real example of the importance of equal numbers. Creating equal world championships slots will encourage participation in triathlon from the grass roots up.”

Inside the ’50 Women to Kona’ Movement

“Equality begets performance,” says Gerdes. “If women are given the stage or the chance to perform at a the highest level, their performance will improve.”

WTC continues to gather information before making a final decision about the size of the male and female pro fields in 2015. In addition to Messick’s sit-down with pros in Boulder, WTC has solicited pro athletes’ thoughts and opinions via surveys about the current Kona qualification system. Until a final decision is announced, the women of the sport will continue their advocacy to bridge the disparity in representation at the Ironman World Championships.

“I look at the 50 top men in the Kona Points Ranking, and I think they are all deserving of toeing the line at the World Championships. I look at the top 50 women and think the same,” says Gerdes. “If the Kona pier won’t grow to accommodate 15 more women, maybe we should think outside the box about win-win situations.”

Chris McCormack issues Lance Armstrong a challenge

Chris McCormack issues Lance Armstrong a challenge

In a recent interview with Competitor Group’s Bob Babbit, two-time Ironman World Champion Chris McCormack revealed that a team of people had made contact with former professional cyclist Lance Armstrong about the prospect of a head-to-head, unsanctioned match-up between the pair in 2014.

Speaking after the inaugural Challenge Laguna Phuket, Chris McCormack was asked about how close he and former professional cyclist Lance Armstrong got to arranging an event before the American was issued with a lifetime suspension by USADA last year.

Chris McCormack issues Lance Armstrong a challenge

“Very close,” McCormack told Competitor Group’s Bob Babbit.

It was widely known that an event was in the works to feature both Armstrong and McCormack, but when USADA’s reasoned decision was handed down and the American was banned from sanctioned sport for life in 2012, planning abruptly ended.

Despite Armstrong’s current ban, McCormack indicated to Competitor Group’s Bob Babbit that he would still be willing to go head-to-head with Armstrong.

“Well, believe it or not, a crew of people contacted him recently – because I know he can’t race anybody, but I said ‘you know what, I’ll race you mate!’ I’ll race you. Only because – I don’t care if there are no accolades, I just want to race you.

“Just two old blokes, there’s no excuses, let’s just have a race.”

McCormack revealed he recently extended the challenge to Armstrong because the American is still someone he regards as a “competitor” and someone he would like to race in the future, even if that meant doing so in an unsanctioned, one-on-one type of event.

“Lance has done some horrible things and some amazing things athletically. You know, he’s still a competitor, and I’ve always been inspired by racing competitors.”

But the two-time Ironman World Champion said he really got inspired to reach out to Armstrong again because of a recent interview he read.

“I read an interview recently, where [Armstrong] believed he could win the Ironman World Championships. That was what sort of sparked my interest to contact him again. I’m like ‘hey man, you can’t go and make those sorts of statements without backing them up’. So if you really think you can win the Ironman World Championships, come and race me.”

Chris McCormack issues Lance Armstrong a challenge

Earlier today, Armstrong responded to McCormack’s comments via his Twitter account.

“Hey @MaccaNow – if you’re serious then gimme a call. Let’s discuss,” Armstrong tweeted this morning.

If any athletic match-up were to go down between the pair, it would have to be an unsanctioned event, as Armstrong is currently serving a lifetime ban for doping during his cycling career.

Armstrong’s last raced an elite triathlon back in October of 2012 at the unsanctioned Super Frog Half Iron-distance race in California in which he out-ran Australia’s Leon Griffin for the win. Armstrong also competed as an amateur a week later at the Rev 3 Half Full Maryland event as part of a charity effort to raise funds and awareness for the Ulman Cancer Foundation.

Armstrong has been a on big media campaign lately, breaking his silence with Cycling News and the BBC in recent weeks.

Any event featuring both Armstrong and McCormack would draw huge publicity, not just from triathlon but also mainstream press.

Craig Alexander to decide on Kona in August

Craig Alexander to decide on Kona in August

Three-time Ironman World Champion and Kona course-record holder Craig Alexander (AUS) said he will wait until the end of August before deciding whether he will return to Hawaii in 2014.

Australia’s Craig Alexander is leaving himself a little over five weeks to see if his body can handle the rigours of another Kona campaign, but is hopeful he will be on the start-line at the Ironman World Championship later this year.

“I feel I will be ready to make a decision by the end of August, and I’d like to do a tune-up race,” Alexander told “If I’m going to do Kona, I’d like to race somewhere before it. Probably not Mont Tremblant, I think that’s too far out, particularly with where my fitness is at. I don’t think I’d be ready to step into a field of that calibre seven weeks from now. But an extra five weeks on, definitely.

“Twelve weeks is a long time, especially when you’ve been doing the sport 20 years. I think you have a big base, a lot of muscle memory, a lot of experience to call on. So when I head back to Boulder, my total focus is on getting fit and healthy and getting in race shape.”

Alexander revealed it was a decision made between he and wife Neri not enrol their son, Austin, in primary school in Australia that prompted a rethink on whether or not to race Hawaii in 2014.

Craig Alexander to decide on Kona in August

“I thought last year was going to be my last year in Kona. It certainly felt that way from a lot of different perspectives. I was feeling I was at a point in my career where, with a lot of sponsorship obligations and travel, I wasn’t able to focus on keeping my body healthy the way I would like to.

“From a family perspective, the plan was that our son was to start school this year. We’ve been homeschooling Lucy [Craig’s eldest daughter] for a while now, but Austin was meant to start school and Neri and I had always said when that point arrived it was probably time to travel a lot less. But then in January back in Australia, which is when the school-year starts back there, Austin was only four and a half. So we decided not to start him this year.

“Things can change, and plans can change. Obviously, straight away I started to think about Kona.”

Knowing his son would not be attending school in January, Alexander took up the option to race Ironman Melbourne to validate his entry for Kona. Before racing the Asia-Pacific Championships, Alexander wiped the deepest 70.3 field assembled in Australia this season.

“I’ve stated in the past I feel when I’ve got fit I can still compete, I showed that at Geelong in what I think is the best 70.3 field that’s ever been assembled in Australia for a long time. Tim Reed was there, Brad Kahlefeldt, Peter Robertson, Courtney Atkinson, James Hodge, it was a great field. Tim Berkel, Clayton Fettell, the list goes on.

“It’s one thing to talk about getting in that shape, but it’s another to actually get in that shape and race. But after Geelong and knowing that Austin wasn’t going to school, I jumped into [Ironman] Melbourne for that reason because I didn’t want to get to July or August and think it was a shame not to have validated.

“I think I had a fairly decent performance in Melbourne, not the greatest. It was a good run, and I felt it was a pretty decent bike. When you’re not in that front group and that [group] is where all the contenders are, 14 or 15, where all the media vehicles are, you need to be in that [front group].

“It was a good race, but I guess the main thing was I validated. Since then I had a big break after Melbourne. Had some travel up to Malaysia, some travel around Australia for different things and then we had a family holiday in Brazil.”

Far from ‘race fit’, Alexander knows there is a lot of work to be done over the next 12 weeks, but he is ready to give it his total focus.

“I wouldn’t say I’m unfit, but I am nowhere near race fit. It’s all well and good to talk about going to Kona, there’s a lot of hard work to be done between now and then, but mainly on my body. I need to be confident that I’m not going to get a 100-kilometres in and not be able to hold onto the aerobars.

Craig Alexander to decide on Kona in August

“I had this trip to the UK to do, plus some other engagements, one in Houston, a few others around the place, one in New York this week. So I always felt I would be coming over in some capacity, but when Austin wasn’t at school, Neri and I talked about spending the whole summer [in Boulder]. I’m certainly in the right place I feel to prepare and that’s my plan when I get home. I think it’s 12 weeks to Kona, that’s plenty of time, but I need to get to a point where I feel confident that my body is in the right place.

“I’m getting a lot of work done on my back, particularly in Boulder. I’m putting in the effort absolutely, but I am a long way from saying definitively ‘Yes, I am going to go’. It’s not about anything other than me needing to feel I am ready to race there. I would love to race there, but I know how hard it is, but that’s on the agenda.”

Nearing the end of a brilliant career, Alexander revealed his motivation to compete is driven by facing the best at major championship events.

“At this point in my career where if I am going to go to the time and effort, and the people around me are going to sacrifice all the things we need to do, I feel the races to do are the big ones. If you are going to put that effort in you may as well go to the races you enjoy and the races I enjoy are the Championship races.

“It’s been on my radar for months now. I’ve been chipping away, doing what I feel is the right sort of training for where I’m at in my career to keep my body fresh and healthy. A lot of focus on working in the gym, on getting the right sort of therapy.

“Certainly the last 18 months has been challenging because I’d never really had to deal with anything my whole career, and I wouldn’t say it’s an age thing, it’s more a time thing. I just haven’t had the time to devote to it.”

Alexander will have three months to get himself race fit for Hawaii when he returns to the US, and there’s no doubt his presence on the Big Island would provide a huge amount of media interest come October. will have the full interview with Craig Alexander out in the next couple of days, where he also discusses the Kona Pro Rankings, prize money, future of the sport and his new role as a coach and mentor.

It’s not just about the finisher’s t-shirt

It’s not just about the finisher’s t-shirt

There’s been a lot of conjecture about why pro athletes don’t finish every race they start. Professional triathlete and full-time firefighter Matty White has penned this piece to provide some insight into why it’s not always about collecting a finisher’s t-shirt for the pro athletes racing.

When I was 21 years old I vividly remember walking over to the Currency Exchange counter at the Adelaide airport with about $45.65 in my pocket to change over to French Francs. And yes, I did bother with the 65 cents because that was all I had to live on until my next race which was about five days away in Marsielle. It was at this time when I realised that the spirit of “just finishing” was gone. Things were real now, triathlon was my only job and I had to race and make money to survive.

For the five days before the race I lived on canned soup and a terrible canned concoction called Castoullie, which is basically French stewed sausage in a tin. I was living in a hotel room in Salon De Provence, which was provided for to me by my French Club at the time. Luckily, for me, I raced my heart out and turned myself inside out to finish fourth in a typically Euro strong field to make 400 francs (roughly $120 AUD at the time). I had never raced so hard in my life and upon finishing the race I went straight to the officials to confirm the prize money. This kept me in France for at least another few weeks of eating stewed sausages!

I felt that I had won the lottery as I was actually making some money in order to survive. However meagre it was, I was actually a pro athlete and could proudly call myself one. I managed to race well throughout the year and actually come back with some money that helped me travel and survive through the Australian summer, then I would do it all again and ‘live the dream’, meeting some great people and training with world champion athletes such as Brad Beven and Simon Lessing on a daily basis along the way.

It’s not just about the finisher’s t-shirt

During this time I raced with and against some legendary Aussie athletes, who were all struggling and battling for a dollar. I especially remember racing Craig Alexander in the middle of nowhere at a Triple Sprint race in Valence in 2001 just to chase a dollar on the French circuit, and I can safely say that Crowie was battling away like most of us over in Europe at the time all trying to survive however we could.

Since my early days on the French circuit, I believe not much has changed in the sport of professional triathlon, and it really annoys me to hear people call us out for being “soft” for not finishing a race. The last time I checked Cash Converters were not offering much for trading in Finisher’s towels and medals! This is probably one of the hardest sports in the world to make a living from and I have the upmost respect for anyone that actually can survive off triathlon, and I do mean survive as that is all you are doing. Pro athletes in this sport sacrifice massive amounts to be where they are and I dont just mean the usual time and family stuff. I mean real-life altering factors, and if a lot of people who criticise us would take the time to sit down and think about these ‘real’ factors they would certainly realise it is not all about the finishers t-shirt for pro athletes.

If you are an Australian self-sufficient pro triathlete these days there is a good chance you don’t have kids, as supporting and providing for them would be very difficult with all the expenses of travelling, schooling, etc., and there is also a good chance you don’t have a mortgage, health insurance or are contributing to any superannuation scheme or any long term investment for the future.

You will race now until about 40 if you’re lucky and if you have not won Kona or the Olympics or are a Euro athlete who gets paid a full time wage under their elite athlete scheme or club system you will be entering the workforce at around 40 as quite possibly an under-skilled, but very healthy individual. This is scary on many fronts not only due to my last point, but also the fact that most people have been contributing to a superannuation scheme for the last 20 years and you are only just starting at the youthful age of 40 to plan for your retirement, giving you at most about 20 years or so to save.

This sport is not golf or tennis where there is a masters or seniors tour which pays well. Nor is it a sport where you can safely travel around the world in a 50-foot yacht with your winnings and never work again. Nor is it a sport where you can pick up first-round losers cheque of $30k in a tennis tournament or $15k for part of a six-way tie for 27th in a golf tournament. This sport is tough and tough people survive. You can ask most pro triathletes who raced when they were young how hard it was. I remember Macca talking about how he cut his teeth on the Euro circuit and it made him the athlete he was today. Macca’s also talked about how hard it was being a young athlete in a new country not knowing the languages, travelling week in, week out living out of a cardboard bike box getting himself to races in small towns all in order to survive. I remember hearing a story from multiple world champion Simon Lessing whom I trained with in France about his early days in Europe and how he caught a train to a race and slept in his bike bag in the transition so he could save money on accommodation and went on to win the race!

I have a cardboard box in my cellar full of hundreds of finishers medals and t-shirts, sure there is sentimental value in them but sentiment doesn’t keep you alive or put food in your mouth. If a pro athlete decides to stop during a race for whatever reason whether it be mechanical, sickness, injury or whatever, it should not be questioned by someone who has a full time job and is comfortably able to support themselves. A DNF at this level is purely about self preservation and making sure that you remain in good shape so you can fight for a payday at the next event. I have finished countless Ironman races, and I don’t need another finishers medal or a tattoo to say I am an Ironman. I need a pay day and if I truly believe that finishing a race will severely hamper my chances at future races, I will pull out for these reasons. This is not soft it is smart, and if you are supporting a family as well as yourself, it is even smarter. If you are lucky enough to be paid an appearance fee for a race generally the contract will outline that you are required to finish, hence you will see some top-line pro athletes walk to the finish in some races.

It’s not just about the finisher’s t-shirt

Prize money in this sport has not increased much in a long time, and I am talking since the early ’90s! It’s been a while since we’ve had great prize money for athletes competing in the Tooheys Blue Triathlon Series and we had TV time every Saturday. For example, if your workplace had not increased your pay in about 10 years or more, odds are your union would be jumping up and down and negotiating a better rate under an Enterprise Bargaining Agreement. There is no union currently for pro athletes and we are at the mercy of the governing body at the races we decide to compete in and whatever prize money is offered, we just have to accept it and do what we can to survive, much like a bunch of hungry seagulls fighting for a scrap of bread.

I am actually envious of people who have massive feelings of joy in crossing the line of an Ironman race, they don’t have to calculate where they have finished or try and recall the prize money breakdown from the race website, or work out the profit/loss of getting to and from a race, or figure out how many KPR points the person in front and behind of you has in order to get to Kona. These factors take a lot of the enjoyment out of the actual finishing experience and it’s generally more of a feeling of relief that the pain of racing is over and to finish in the money than getting to the finish-line itself at this point.

I am able to support myself now as I work full time, but I will never forget how tough it was as a full-time athlete so it really annoys me when I hear people call strong guys like Cam Brown, Tim Berkel, Mitch Anderson, Joe Gambles, Luke Bell, Tim Reed, Josh Rix, etc. soft for pulling the pin, and it even upsets me more when it comes from people who really have no idea about how much hard work it takes to compete and essentially make a living from triathlon. So if you want to go back to your forums and have a dig at me for this post, before you do, ask yourself this: if your boss asked you to come in and work for free for a week or more would you, just for the satisfaction of working?