Well prepared for ‘the worst day in sport’
WHEN the cannon goes off to start the most unpredictable Ironman race on the plant at Hawaii, one thing is assured. Josh Minogue will swim fast.
The boy has form in the water. In fact, he’s raced the world’s greatest swimmer – Michael Phelps.
“I have never been more intimidated in my life,” Minogue said of their clash in the 200m butterfly at California during 2006.
“I’m in lane six and Michael Phelps is in lane four. At the time I swam about two minutes for 200 butterfly, which wasn’t enough but wasn’t terrible, but he swam 1:54. I knew I was in deep, deep trouble.
“Sitting in the marshalling area, he came in with a hoodie over his head and his headphones in and I have never been less focussed on what I was supposed to be doing and more focussed on what he was doing.
“I think I had him for about six or seven metres before he spat me out the back.”
Honing his craft under the guidance of coach Ron McKeon, the father of noted swimmers David and Olympic gold medallist Emma, Minogue went “all in” but failed to make Australian open swim teams for the 2004 and 2008 Olympics.
But post swimming, he discovered endurance pedigree when returning to surf sports which had inspired him as a nipper growing up in Wollongong.
Riding a sharp learning curve, he had to improve board paddling, ski and running, which led him to the Sunshine Coast under the guidance of former Mooloolaba coach Michael King with the likes of Matt Poole, Alex Tibbits and Ali Day.
He ultimately earned a spot in the surf series and lived the life of a semi-professional with races televised throughout the summer.
“I got myself in and proceeded to get absolutely smashed for a summer running 17th and 16th and I think I got a 12th, but I was in the series,” Minogue said.
“I probably knew deep down I
was never going to be Shannon or Zane (Eckstein) or Ky Hurst but I was living my dream. I was happy to be there...we had a really good time and I wished I had enjoyed it more because I was super stressed about coming 16th.”
Slow progression saw Minogue ultimately gain some top 10 finishes, yet an ankle injury forced him briefly out of the series. But by 2014, at the age of 27, he had tired of trying to re-qualify for the series every September.
After being belted by a wave while on his ski during one of the
qualification races (despite having a hefty lead at the time), that relegated him in the field and saw him miss the series cut.
Then deciding he was finished, Minogue was harassed by King to have one more crack at the Coolangatta Gold before retirement after four previous third placings.
“Kingy rings me one last time and said ‘can you do this for me and after this no matter what the result we are done and I’ll promise I won’t bother you any more’,” Minogue said.
“He knew it was the right thing. He knew I had more to give and I was so fit at that point that it would be a shame to waste it.”
Minogue went on to win the 41.8km torture test, encompassing multiple legs of ski, board, run and swim, and join some of the biggest name in the sport. Yet modesty prevents him from claiming legend status.
“I’m happy just being on the (winners) list. I’m probably the worst bloke to win that race but whether I deserve it or not is not for me to say. It was rad, I wouldn’t give it back,” he said.
After finishing with surf sports, Minogue got a taste of triathlon at Noosa during 2015. Impressing with an outstanding swim and run, it was his bike that let him down.
Steadily improving, the now 31-year-old impressed at Hell of the West last year to win his age group and trump some elite competitors.
Yet his first attempt to qualify for Hawaii at New Zealand fell flat after struggling in windy conditions. He returned to Ironman WA last December where he got the coveted spot despite the swim being cancelled due to a shark sighting.
He was fourth in the 30-34 age group with 4:51:15 for the 180km bike and a 3:22:23 marathon.
Now working as head coach of Sunshine Beach Surf Club, he’s been training hard in recent months. Swimming with the Sage crew at Kawana and also doing some sessions with John ‘JR’ Rogers at Noosa, Minogue has been riding four or five times a week while also improving his run with the hope of achieving a marathon less than 3hr 20min at Kona. “I call it long pointless exercise but I think that undersells it,” Minogue said.
“The professional guys are some of the best athletes on the planet – to do the work they do day in, day out for the season they do, for the pay they get.” Happy as a “punter age grouper”, Minogue has little expectation in Hawaii.
“It’s just the worst day in sport in the best way,” he said.
“If I can finish in the top 50 in my age group then I would be stoked.”
LEARNING AGAIN: Surf sports star turned triathlete Josh Minogue, and the back page of the Sunshine Coast Daily on November 3, 2014.
SOLID PREPARATION: Josh Minogue competes at Ironman 70.3 Sunshine Coast during August.