ITU HALL OF FAME IN­DUCTEE

WHIT­FIELD’S NEW MIS­SION

Triathlon Magazine Canada - - FEATURES - BY KEVIN MACKIN­NON

Ev­ery morn­ing he would write at the top of his train­ing log, “I am go­ing to be an Olympic cham­pion.” It started in 1997, when he moved from his home in Kingston, Ont. to Vic­to­ria. Day in, day out, that’s what got writ­ten at the top of each page. (OK, there was one day, Nov. 23, that started “slept in to­day,” but right af­ter­wards he wrote his daily Olympic champ mantra.)

So while the rest of the world might have been sur­prised that a fresh­faced 25-year-old from Canada took the sport’s first men’s gold medal at the Olympic games in Syd­ney, Aus­tralia in 2000, Si­mon Whit­field wasn’t. He’d been pre­par­ing him­self for that mo­ment for years.

“Our big­gest chal­lenge is be­lief,” he said at the ITU Hall of Fame in­duc­tion cer­e­mony in Septem­ber, pulling out that train­ing log to show ev­ery­one how he had writ­ten down that mes­sage to him­self each and ev­ery day.

He’s 40 now, re­tired from the sport that gave him so much for so long. He did his first triathlon, a Kids of Steel race in Shar­bot Lake, wear­ing “boxer shorts with Mickey Mouse” on them, he re­mem­bers. He re­calls that he “got smoked” in that race, but it in­spired him to pur­sue the sport. His in­duc­tion into the Hall of Fame was a no-brainer. While he fin­ished a dis­ap­point­ing 11th at the 2004 games in Athens, he bounced back to take the sil­ver medal in 2008. In 2012 a freak bike crash com­ing out of T1 saw him break his col­lar bone and end his Olympic ca­reer with a DNF. Along the way he racked up 12 Cana­dian cham­pi­onships (10 of those in a row), took gold at the Com­mon­wealth Games in 2002 and won 14 world cup ti­tles, in­clud­ing the sport’s big­gest payday at the time, the Hy Vee cham­pi­onship.

The sport has given him so much, but he’s paid back in spades. He’s been an out­spo­ken ad­vo­cate for his team­mates, a men­tor for many of Canada’s up-and-com­ing stars and been an in­te­gral spokesper­son for the sport as it has grown in Canada since his big win in Syd­ney. His con­tri­bu­tions go way be­yond that, though. When Loreen Bar­nett, the ITU sec­re­tary gen­eral, called him up a few years ago to ask if he would help raise money for a Van­cou­ver food bank, he of­fered up 10 days of train­ing. Ten age group ath­letes paid $1,000 each for the chance to spend a day train­ing with Whit­field.

At 40 he’s still the fresh-faced, fun-lov­ing guy who trans­formed the sport 15 years ago, but he’s also a lot more in­tro­spec­tive about his ca­reer and the sac­ri­fices he’s made along the way. Af­ter years of be­ing some­what shy dur­ing pub­lic ap­pear­ances, he’s be­come an incredible pub­lic speaker.

Whit­field dreamed of be­ing an Olympic gold medal­list. He also al­ways dreamed of be­ing in the Hall of Fame – de­ter­mined to make a dif­fer­ence in the sport he loves so much. But were all the sac­ri­fices worth it? He wres­tles with that. In 2012, as he pre­pared for the Olympic Games in Lon­don, he sat down one day and fig­ured out just how much time he’d spent away from home, leav­ing his wife Jen­nie at home with their two daugh­ters – five months that year alone. In hind­sight he wishes he could go back and fig­ure out how to pur­sue his triathlon dreams with­out hav­ing to leave them for so long.

Great cham­pi­ons an­a­lyze, learn and make changes once they see those are needed. The morn­ing af­ter Whit­field’s in­duc­tion cer­e­mony he was on a plane from Chicago back to Vic­to­ria. He’s the coach of his daugh­ter’s soc­cer team and they had a game he was de­ter­mined to get to. Si­mon Whit­field will con­tinue to be a spokesman for our sport, but his most im­por­tant role right now is that of a fa­ther. His triathlon fam­ily re­quired so much of his time and en­ergy for years. We’ll still get some of that, but the main fo­cus will be on the fam­ily closer to home.

They don’t hand out gold medals for dads, but I know Whit­field is go­ing to be striv­ing for the equiv­a­lent.

Whit­field speak­ing af­ter be­ing in­ducted to the ITU Hall of Fame

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