CLASSI­EST ATH­LETES OF THE YEAR

JEFF SY­MONDS AND BRENT MCMA­HON

Triathlon Magazine Canada - - FEATURES - BY KEVIN MACKINNON

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.

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