Si­mon Whit­field Re­tires

Triathlon Magazine Canada - - Warm Up News Spe­cial -

He’sbeen the face of our sport in Canada for over a decade. Si­mon Whit­field, the four-time Olympian (in­clud­ing a gold in Syd­ney and a sil­ver in Bei­jing) and 12-time na­tional cham­pion, of­fi­cially an­nounced his re­tire­ment last Oc­to­ber. Whit­field has be­come a part­ner and head of Fan­tan’s Sports En­ter­tain­ment Divi­sion.

After a dis­ap­point­ing crash in Lon­don put him out of the race, Whit­field had orig­i­nally de­clared that he would shift his fo­cus to long- course rac­ing. As he ref lected on the de­mands re­quired to con­tinue to com­pete, in­clud­ing spend­ing more time away from his fam­ily, Whit­field de­ter­mined it was time to move on.

“That sport is not fi­nan­cially vi­able for a dad of two with bills to pay,” he says. “It’s such a mas­sive com­mit­ment and I couldn’t see how I could tie in ev­ery­thing I’m try­ing to bal­ance in a pro­fes­sional way.”

Does that mean we’ll never see Whit­field com­pete in a long dis­tance race?

“I will do it as a guy who loves to stay fit and has it on my bucket list of things to do,” he says.

Whit­field con­tin­ues to stay fit – he plays soc­cer and bas­ket­ball reg­u­larly and has be­come an avid stand-up pad­dle­boarder. Those ac­tiv­i­ties more than ful­fill his com­pet­i­tive drive. De­spite the dis­ap­point­ment of not fin­ish­ing the race in Lon­don last year, Whit­field doesn’t feel a burn­ing de­sire to com­pete at the sport’s high­est lev­els once again.

“It was such a huge build up for Lon­don. My goal was al­ways to be as pre­pared as pos­si­ble. If that re­sulted in a medal, that was great. It was eas­ier to walk away be­cause I did ev­ery­thing I wanted to. I did have long course goals, but there were trade offs. Car­ry­ing the f lag (which he did at the open­ing cer­e­mony in Lon­don) – I wouldn’t trade that ex­pe­ri­ence for any­thing. It was as ex­cit­ing as win­ning in Syd­ney.”

The fo­cus on prepa­ra­tion rather than an end re­sult helped Whit­field deal with the pres­sure- cooker that was his life ev­ery four years af­ter that sur­prise gold medal in Syd­ney. While he thrived on the pres­sure, hav­ing gone through the process made it that much more dif­fi­cult to see Paula Find­lay’s strug­gles in Lon­don.

“That was by far the most dis­ap­point­ing thing in my ca­reer,” he says. “There were peo­ple from the Olympic as­so­ci­a­tion who re­ally failed her. Peo­ple who failed to be ac­count­able for what, in the end, was a dis­as­trous sit­u­a­tion. When the wheels fell off ev­ery­one jumped ship. It wasn’t right.”

Whit­field’s out­spo­ken com­ments af­ter Find­lay’s race in Lon­don last year were taken as crit­i­cism of Triathlon Canada at the time, but, as Whit­field points out, he was very spe­cific of the peo­ple he felt should be ac­count­able. He looks back now with a lot of re­spect for Alan Triv­ett, Triathlon Canada’s ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor, who ac­knowl­edged that Triathlon Canada did “need to take re­spon­si­bil­ity for what tran­spired dur­ing Paula’s Olympic race” and com­mit­ted to make im­prove­ments to the sys­tem.

His com­ments might have an­gered some, but the pub­lic has been more than sup­port­ive. For months af­ter­wards Whit­field was stopped on the street or in air­ports by peo­ple who wanted to tell him how much they re­spected and ap­pre­ci­ated his words af­ter the games. “You’re the guy who stood up for that ath­lete,” he kept hear­ing.

He’s ac­tu­ally the guy who car­ried triathlon to house­hold recog­ni­tion here in Canada for over a decade. Oddly enough, though, Whit­field still feels he owes the sport much more that it owes him.

“I owe the sport an enor­mous amount,” he says. “Look at the op­por­tu­ni­ties it’s given me. I had lunch with the Queen of Eng­land (which is my sin­gle-most “how did I get here mo­ment”) … be­cause Joan and Rudy Hol­ly­wood in­tro­duced me to this won­der­ful sport in 1986. I got here be­cause of this huge, in­cred­i­ble vol­un­teer base who are pas­sion­ate about our sport.”

That in­tro­duc­tion came at a Kids of Steel race put on by the Hol­ly­wood’s at Shar­bot Lake, Ont. While that event helped get him hooked, Whit­field feels that in many ways the sport isn’t as ac­ces­si­ble as it can be and there is more to be done to pro­mote it.

Which is why we can look for­ward to some in­no­va­tive new ways to bring triathlon to the masses some­time soon, cour­tesy of Whit­field. He might not be will­ing to sac­ri­fice all the time and ef­fort it takes to com­pete at the high­est lev­els of our sport any longer, but that doesn’t mean triathlon is out of his life.– KM

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