Multisport: Young Kiwis inspiration for Whitfield

Canadian triathlete Simon Whitfield trains at Wanaka Community Pool. Photo by Marjorie Cook.
Canadian triathlete Simon Whitfield trains at Wanaka Community Pool. Photo by Marjorie Cook.
Canadian triathlete Simon Whitfield hopes a season of training around Wanaka and racing in today's Contact Cup event will be the boost he needs in his campaign for a third Olympic medal in London.

Whitfield (37) is one of several international athletes staying with the Triathlon New Zealand team this summer and so far, he is the only Canadian male triathlete to have qualified for London.

The senior statesman of triathlon has a reputation for speed, after winning the gold medal at the Sydney Olympics in 2000, the year triathlon was introduced, in 1hr 48min.

He claimed a silver medal in Beijing in 2008, after a dramatic charge through the field from fourth place in the final kilometre.

At the moment, Whitfield feels his strength has moved from running to swimming and he is focused on getting his running speed back.

However, he is not fazed about the present crop of speedy international young guns, although he concedes Britain's Brownlee brothers, Alistair (23) and Jonathon (21), are a force to be reckoned with.

"I think I am the oldest guy on the circuit. But it is fun being around the young guys," Whitfield said.

"I have been really impressed with the young Kiwis. And I am enjoying spending time around Andrea Hewitt and seeing how mature and professional she is."

Hewitt (29), of Christchurch, is ranked No 1 going into the world championship race in Sydney in April, and is also training in Wanaka with her partner and coach, Laurent Vidal (27), of France.

Whitfield has dual Australian-Canadian nationality but has has spent most of his life in Canada, where he lives on Vancouver Island with wife Jennie, a long-distance mountain biker, and their two daughters, Pippa (4) and Evelyn (1).

When Whitfield won gold in Sydney, he had home advantage, having gone to school in the city, but New Zealand's Hamish Carter was the pre-race favourite.

Carter was punished by the fast pace and finished out of contention but got his revenge in 2004 in Athens. Whitfield, who finished 11th, says he was "crushed" by his friend.

"I really looked up to Hamish and when he lived in Victoria with his wife and kids, we spent time together. I think we just share similar values and it was inspiring to see him as a dad."

Whitfield is enjoying his first visit to Wanaka and the Snow Farm and described Triathlon NZ's approach to high altitude training as innovative and professional.

"It is a very independent sport. You have to be resilient and the Kiwis epitomise that. Travelling is a great way to figure it out. Perhaps they think a little bit of adversity is good for them.

"I love the Snow Farm. The weather has been reliable, there are great running tracks and the people - the young Kiwis - are all wanting to make a breakthrough."

Whitfield did his first triathlon when he was 11 and was a professional by the time he was 17.

He enrolled at New South Wales university in Sydney but an offer to race with a French club was too compelling and he left his tertiary studies after just six months.

His build-up for London includes world series races in Sydney in April and San Diego in May.


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