Chris McCormack (39) with his family, Emma, Flynn (1),
Tahlia (9) and Sienna (6), in Wanaka. Photo by Mark Price.
Young New Zealand and Australian triathletes need to show
more ''mongrel'' if they want to reclaim a place on the world
That is the view of Australian Chris McCormack, viewed as the
sport's most successful exponent.
McCormack (39), in Wanaka preparing for Challenge Wanaka on
Saturday, recounted how he began his international career
living from the prize money in France in 1996.
He knew if he did not win races, he would be on the plane
''So I had to win money.
''You sort of had that mindset.''
He won nine races that first season and his overall tally is
He said the hard financial road he and the likes of Hamish
Carter and Bevan Docherty followed gave them an edge over
their rivals in the northern hemisphere, where most of the
events were run.
''When we make that commitment to leave, it's very difficult
to come home.
''When you arrive in Europe, you're in the deep end, so you
really fight and claw your way through. I think we're a
little bit harder.
''For a lot of the Europeans, the Americans, the circuit's on
their doorstep, so when things aren't going good it's easy to
go back home.
''We don't have that luxury. You've got to pull things
together and try and make it work.''
As one of the sport's statesmen, the advice he gives to young
athletes is to ''toughen up a bit''.
''Mum and Dad didn't pay anything for me.''
McCormack sees fewer New Zealanders and Australians competing
at the top level and believes that is because ''the mongrel's
a little bit gone''.
''I'm around a lot of the younger guys and they just don't
... they don't seem to have the fire.''
He recalls how ''raw'' he and his contemporaries were in the
early days when no-one knew the limitations of a triathlete.
''The only limitation was, I don't want to go home, so I've
got to go and race next week.
''Is it the best thing to do? Probably not. But you needed to
pay your way.
''Ultimately, over time you get so race-hardened that when
you were a little bit more established, and you backed off a
bit ... you were unbeatable.''
He believed younger competitors modelled their behaviour on
what top-ranked athletes were doing now but overlooked what
they had needed to do to build a ''platform of success''.
''So they just don't do enough, I don't think.''
McCormack said he met lots of ''these kids'' on the circuit
''For a lot of them it's fantastic: `I get to go to Europe,
paid for by the Government, hang out, and if it doesn't work
out I'll go home'.
''There's no investment on their behalf.''
He said a lot of questions were being asked about why New
Zealand and Australia were no longer dominating the sport.
''I think it's a different mindset.
''We're not so tightly wound, we don't stick together ... I
do think it's a bit of a mindset.''
When McCormack announced his intention to race in Wanaka he
said he was coming to win and to break the course record -
8hr 34min 41sec - set by Richard Ussher in 2010.
Having inspected the course, noted the hills, heard about the
wind, and acknowledged that it was early in the triathlon
season, McCormack said the win would do. The record would be