Changing the face of triathlon: Macca’s Musings
Posted on: Monday 2nd June 2014
I have always been an adamant believer in the sport of Triathlon. I came to the sport as a 17 year old in the late 1980’s because the sport appealed to me. At that time in my life, I had no idea where swimming, biking and running would take me in my life. To me this was a sport that I enjoyed, and back then it was a sport that looked very different than it does today. It was the pioneering days of Triathlon, and even then, Triathletes were always looking for the new product or the new training method that would make them faster. It was an era when new races were talked about like social gossip, as new cities and new places embraced a sport that was relatively unknown. It took courage for any city to embrace a sport that didn’t really make sense. In the middle of a marathon boom, we multisport enthusiast’s were telling tales of swimming, biking and running to an audience that thought we were all mad. It was a sport in its infancy. We all lived the sport, through the magazines and the writers that penned the stories about the weekends of racing around the world. These were the days pre the Internet, so the fans of triathlon heavily relied on the journalistic penmanship of the race day reporters. Race reports in magazines made up the majority of a magazine and it was imperative that these stories were told true and accurate.
For myself, Triathlon was my passion. It grew into my livelihood and my career, and it took me all over the world. Had it not been for this sport, my life today would look and be very different. I am forever indebted to the sport for giving me the life I have had and the friends I have met. I love Triathlon.
When a sport goes from being a sport, to being your life, your views and perception of it can change. I was always driven to race and be a part of those events that inspired and challenged me. I would look for races like this and enter them. As the sport exploded through the 90’s and stayed on this exponential growth curve year after year since, new events would present and new key influencers entered our sport and changed the face of it forever. At the time you never viewed it like this, but hindsight and reflection paints a much clearer picture.
Herbert Walchshofer, was one of these men. In 2002, he decided to take his event in a different direction and hold true to the values of the sport as he and his family viewed them. Like many of us in this era, Triathlon was a family, and the people who raced it had a sense of ownership and pride about it. Challenge Roth was re born and the entire game changed for the better. It was a focal point in our sports history, and the progress has been remarkable. The sport of Triathlon as we feel it today is a product of this decision. As a professional athlete, the difficulty over the years has been how to navigate your way around a sport that is changing year after year. For many athletes, professionalism in Triathlon is a myth. I do tend to argue with many young athletes on the definition of professionalism. I don’t think anyone denies the amount of work and commitment that goes into preparing and executing at a professional level in triathlon. The risk versus reward on venturing down this path is a tough one to assess for any athlete. Many aspiring professionals have gone broke, before their potential was ever met for many differing reasons. Understanding the complexities of professionalism is something that all athletes ultimately grow into. Many young athletes simply never reflect on the sport and how it exists for them right now. The only thing you can control is the Now, yet so many young professionals seem to miss this.
From a professional athletes perspective my decision to work as part of the development and movement towards a sport that could ultimately deliver professionalism for athletes at the highest level and also support the massive growth of the sport at an amateur level has always been my goal. When something has given you so much, you hope it can do the same for others. The very core values and foundation of what Challenge Family represents is what brought me to race their events for the entire duration of my racing career, and also lead me to partner with them in both a consulting and ambassador capacity to share my knowledge and experience of 20 years of racing in this sport. The agreement by all of us at Challenge was to give attention to the needs of all that do this sport including the professionals. I have said it many times, Challenge continues to pay professionals more at their events than any other series on earth. This is something we are committed to. We are not cutting money or adding points, we are simply rewarding excellence at a professional level by doing what every professional in any field expects, fair payment for service. I still wonder why more professionals don’t see this. Where are you all?
3 weeks ago, we were able to announce the beginning of the next milestone in our sports history, with the introduction of the biggest Half distance race in the history of this sport, Challenge Bahrain. Like his father did, 12 years prior, Felix Walshofer, delivered on a promise his family made to the sport, to continue to push the Triathlon in the direction at which it grows organically. Partnering with the Kingdom of Bahrain and his Royal highness Sheikh Nasser, Challenge Bahrain was born, and the game changer for professional Triathlon as we know it began. On December 6th of 2014, with a prize purse in excess of 500k, it is the richest Half Distance race in the World and has the full support of the country and its people. It is a remarkable event, and having spent some time in Bahrain earlier this year, the destination is truly exceptional. This course will be incredible and for all athletes both professional and amateur, it is events that take us to places we never imagined that make this sport truly unique. Bahrain is a beautiful setting for what will be a unique event for everyone competing and I am committed to seeing this race be the biggest triathlon event in the world with time. When you see the influence our sport has on the people of a nation it is truly inspiring. Both Shiekh Nasser and his brother Shiekh Khalid are both hard core triathletes and Endurance racers. They were drawn to our sport in the very same reasons we all came here. The Challenge that this sport presents everyone. I think what makes their involvement in our sport even more remarkable is that both of them are in key positions within a country to make a difference. They can lead by example and they do so. From little things, big things grow, and this is exactly what catapulted our sport at to the forefront of sports in the region. The support of key influencers in a region who like all of us, just love to race and have fun doing so.
Challenge Bahrain will be a benchmark for this sport on a professional front and for the Challenge series of races around the world, another substantial event in a region that is discovering our amazing sport. Triathlon has truly grown up, and it is wonderful to see that key influencers in the direction of its future still see value in all the key fundamentals that have got our sport to where it stands today. To the professionals triathletes who are training all over the world, I am sure you have put this race on your list of events for the 2014 season, but I encourage you to look past the single pay day at this event. Start to believe in the people and the values behind how we got here in the first place. This is only the beginning of a Changing Face of Triathlon as we know it. I am excited to be a big part of this.
Posted in Athlete's Journey, Athlete's Journey » Features, Athlete’s Journey » Pro Athletes