Hall of famer McKib­bon ready to pass the torch

Windsor Star - - FRONT PAGE - KELLY STEELE ksteele@post­

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.

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