AGE-GROUP MALE HANS PORTEN
Triathlon Magazine Canada Age-Group Triathlete of the Year
Hans Porten didn’t train at all for his first triathlon back in 2003, but now his colleagues consider the 63-year-old a prime example of proper race preparation. In the 16 years between, he has stood on podiums around the world and coached a new generation of racers in southern Ontario.
His active youth may explain why training wasn’t necessary for that first tri. Growing up in Germany, sport was secondary to work, but he regularly swam, biked and ran. When Porten was about 18 years old, he became a lifeguard and his team won the world championship in rescue swimming competitions.
He would run a few times a week through the forests as an outlet for the frustrations of life and cycling was his usual transportation.
When Porten moved to Canada 21 years ago, he and his wife settled in Brampton, Ont. He cycled to work at an electrical training facility for the automotive industry. The head of the company, in a well-meaning way, once told him, “Hans, you’re nobody in nowhere. Make sure you become somebody, somewhere.” And Porten took that advice to heart.
“This outlook fed my athletic and working goals because I decided that was the way to become someone,” he says. At a local swimming pool, Barrie Shepley of the Canadian Cross Training Club (C3) told Porten he looked like a triathlete and asked if he wanted to train. Porten decided he did and raced his first triathlon, a Kids of Steel event, in 2003.
“My first triathlon was funny,” he recalls. “I was probably smiling the whole time. The little kids went first and it was fun to see them racing.”
He also recalls that the atmosphere of the event was good.
“Tri is a whole different game,” he says. “People who do that, it is hard to describe – there’s a society. I meet all kinds of people from all over the world. I have gotten to know a great community and the seasoned racers have their own friendships.”
Porten counts himself among those seasoned racers. Now in the 60-to-65 age group, he does five or six races in a year and estimates he has competed in 75 to 80 races since 2003.
In 2011, Porten went to Ironman Austria and placed first in his age group. That qualified him for Kona the same year, where he placed 14th in the 50-to-59 category.
“From a racer’s point of view, Kona was intense. You can feel the tension in the days leading up to the race. Kona is a learning curve all its own.” Five years later, he returned and placed 21st in the 60 to 64 age group.
Among his most memorable races, Porten counts being in Lausanne, Switzerland twice and landing on the podium each time. In 2006, he finished third at the ITU Triathlon World Championship. In 2019, he placed second at the ITU Triathlon World Grand Final in the 60 to 64 age group.
“I just loved it,” Porten says of the most recent podium finish. “It was almost a copy of my race there in 2006. I was early out of the water, then people did not catch me on the bike as in 2006. But it was way better in 2019, I was faster and I kept the lead. Running is my strong point and both times I was running people down.”
At his first triathlon, if someone had said “You’ll take silver at the ITU World Championship in 2019,” Porten says he wouldn’t have believed them.
“At first, I thought, this is fun. It’s going to be a nice hobby. Then the hobby almost became a profession,” he explains.
Porten’s other passion is coaching. He was one of the first people in Ontario to get his NCCP coach certificate and at the Tornado Triathlon Club in Milton, he’s known as a legend. “Coach Hans provides valuable insight and triathlon experience in swim, bike and run to our club and its athletes,” says fellow coach Carolyn Kubas. “He is a phenomenal example of hard work and determination. He is in tune with the needs of our youth/junior and age group athletes and we are thankful to have Hans with us.”
“I like to work with young people,” says Porten. “Triathlon gets them on the right track. Later on in life, they know what it means to be committed to do something.”
Like his old boss, Porten guides others with words of wisdom such as “Make yourself a reputation. Make sure people know you,” and this gem, “The more mistakes you do, the more people will know you.”
Porten would like to win gold in 2020 at the ITU World Championship in Edmonton and further down the road, he might return to Kona for the 65 to 69 age group.
“If that works out, it will be good,” he says. “But if it doesn’t, I’ll work out something else instead.”
Be Somebody, Somewhere
ABOVE Hans Porten races at the ITU Grand Final, Lausanne 2019