TRIATHLETE SLOWS DOWN
Hall of famer McKibbon ready to pass the torch
For John McKibbon, the decision to hand over control of the local triathlon series he started 29 years ago isn’t an easy one.
“Triathlons have defined my life, but it’s time to step back,” McKibbon, 73, said with tears in his eyes.
“It’s a lot more work to do things. And I’m always forgetting things now. They are not going to be putting me in a rocking chair, yet. I will still be doing what I can.”
McKibbon said he’s leaving the series in good hands. McKibbon’s son-in-law, Brian Edwards, will be in charge of the long-running Tecumseh Triathlon weekend and Kids for Hospice Series, along with the popular Kids for Hospice triathlon camp.
McKibbon will also be stepping back from competing. He made the decision a few weeks ago at the start of an AquaBike event (swim and bike). McKibbon has competed in more than 50 triathlons around the world, including two Ironmans, but injuries have been slowing him down.
“I was saying to myself, ‘What am I doing here?’ ” he said. “At 73, I’m getting ready to swim 1,500 metres in the pool and 40 km on the bike. When I finished I felt really good, but all those things become a lot more work.”
It’s stressful organizing a triathlon as there are a lot of moving pieces in the swim, bike and run event. Timing needs to be precise, courses marked, transition areas set up and registration organized. It’s become exceedingly difficult to get volunteers to help the small committee of six members.
“It’s becoming much more work than it used to be and I know it’s because of my age,” McKibbon said.
“But there are a lot of sleepless nights and stress. Just ask my wife. It’s my personality, I just want it to be perfect. And I know I can be a pain sometimes.”
More than 37 years ago, McKibbon was approached by Hospice of Windsor looking for a way to raise funds. He organized Racquets for Fitness and spin-a-thons for Hospice.
But he got the idea for Kids of Steel one summer after his family participated in a backyard triathlon held at the Kniaziew home in the county.
“Most of our fitness events didn’t make a lot of money, but the first Kids of Steel made $4,000,” he said. “We did it out at St. Clair College and our bike course went out on Highway 3.”
Triathlons exploded in 2000 when Canadian Simon Whitfield won gold in the triathlon at the Olympics. Since then, attendance has levelled off to around 200 participants per event.
“At the high time we had close to 400 participants,” McKibbon said.
“We had some of the top athletes from the mid-west and across Canada. But then it slowed down, not because we weren’t doing a good job but because there were so many others triathlons being organized.”
Last year, McKibbon was inducted in the Essex County Sports Hall of Fame for his work with the Tecumseh Triathlon and Kids for Hospice series.
“It was a huge honour, but no one ever starts out with that it mind. That’s not why we do these things,” he said.
This weekend, the annual Tecumseh Triathlon takes place with Kids for Hospice on Saturday at Lacasse Park at 8:30 a.m. On Sunday, the Ontario Youths Series and adult triathlons are at Lakewood Park at 8 a.m.
“I think it’s going to be a sigh of relief when Sunday wraps up,” McKibbon said. “It’s going to be nice to return to some normalcy.
“It’s going to be nice to head to Starbucks and have a coffee, read the paper and not worry about anything.”
It was a huge honour, but no one ever starts out with that it mind. That’s not why we do these things.
John McKibbon, resting poolside at Lacasse Park in Tecumseh on Friday, is retiring next year from organizing triathlons. The 73-year-old Essex County Sports Hall of Fame member has competed in more than 50 triathlons around the world, including two Ironmans.