CLASSIEST ATHLETES OF THE YEAR
JEFF SYMONDS AND BRENT MCMAHON
NOT THAT WE needed any proof that Jeff Symonds is a class act, but the Penticton native’s response to his 22nd place finish at the Ironman World Championship last October was all class. I had heard that Symonds had some bike issues on the ride – in fact I’d heard he’d lost his crank and pedalled through the last 30 km of the bike with one leg, then run one of the fastest marathons of the day.
At first Symonds didn’t want to say anything about the bike mishap, determined not to make excuses. Remember, this is a guy that won the Asia-pacific Championship last March, one of the biggest races of the year, who had every right to feel that he had a legitimate shot at a top finish in Kona. It’s one thing to be a classy guy after a big win, it is another to retain all that class after a tough day.
Symonds was much more interested in celebrating his friend Brent Mcmahon’s ninth place finish, knowing full well that Mcmahon was at some level disappointed with his day, in which he’d struggled through the run after coming off the bike in touch with the race leaders. (Like Symonds, Mcmahon was determined not to make any excuses – I pretty much had to hold Mcmahon down and force him to tell me that he’d been sick during his final preparation for Kona.)
“I know how hard he and Lance [Watson, Mcmahon’s longtime coach] have worked for this,” Symonds said. “I am so happy for him.”
When I was finally able to drag some info out of Symonds about his race, I got some of the details about that pesky crank. Turns out things started to go awry on the way up to the turnaround in Hawi. He was able to nurse things through the next 60 km or so, only to have the crank come off completely with 30 km left of the ride. Rather than quit, or wait on the side of the road for tech support, Symonds kept going. For him, stopping simply wasn’t an option.
“You want to have some meaning for your pain and feel like it’s all for something,” he said. “This is what the sport is all about. Dealing with all the ups and downs. I was really questioning out on the run whether I wanted to do this. Once I got out there I stuck it out. When I was doing the ‘single-leg drills’ I kept thinking there are people doing the race with just one leg. I can’t complain if I have to pedal with one leg for the last 18 miles. I learned a ton. The more you push the more you learn.”
What we learned is that Canada is represented by a couple of the classiest individuals we could ever want.