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Wed 29th Jun 2022
Defining moments
Posted by: Steve Trew
Posted on: Wednesday 24th January 2007

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It’s now my 25th year in triathlon; how about that then? First race, the Big K in Liverpool on the 18th September 1983. That was when it all started for me. Changed my life, actually. And, although that might sound more than a little trite, it’s true nevertheless. Triathlon’s taken me all over the World as an athlete, coach, team manager, race announcer and PA and TV commentator. Amazing places, “interesting” times. Fantastic people.

And it has been a fantastic trip!

And the triathlon world has changed – just a little - since those days. My first race was 1,000 metres in an indoor pool, cycle 20 miles and then run 6 miles. So at least the run has stayed fairly constant! It was on the run in this first event that I learned the absolute truth of your legs feeling like anything but belonging to you when you tried to run off the bike, but I also discovered the euphoria of finishing the run, however bad you felt at the start, and also that, yes, it did get a little easier.

And then it was a few years of racing anywhere, any distance, any conditions, just because there weren’t that many events around and if you wanted, needed, to race, then you travelled to wherever they were. The Scarborough race was perhaps the coldest I ever did; the old cliché about water not really being cold unless it’s solid comes to mind... The London to Paris team event was also awesome! You learn about yourself and your team-mates when you’re cramped in a van or on a small (very!) cross channel boat and things aren’t going well for you. There’s another cliché about “sport building character” (or as some people prefer, “sport revealing character”) and I guess that both are true. I raced the first ever London triathlon in 1984; not too far away from where the current event is held. Listened to the stories about the dead rats in the water, and also the “and watch out for the bodies” stories from the local dockers... ...they were joking, weren’t they?

My last real year was in 1992. My final two events; the World Champs in Canada, and then two weeks later, the Malta Olympic distance International. Not too bad a way to go out. Why stop? Usual story, too many injuries, knees too crocked from all those miles from a previous existence of running. It catches up, more so then than now I guess, we’re perhaps a little bit more educated now about taking precautions and being aware of potential injuries. I still kept on racing but mostly sprint distance rather than Olympic and the odd half-Ironman, and usually when I was away coaching on warm weather camps (none of that silly cold water and struggling in and out of wetsuits!)

I only raced in three World Champs, my best result was in my first, first World Champs ever in Avignon, France in 1989; fabulous event! Finished in 10th place which is about a hundred times more satisfying than finishing 11th. Straight after the event, I discovered the biggest bubble on my tyre that I’d ever seen. (It may have had something to do with me inflating the tyre to 150psi, well, I wanted to give myself a chance and needed them hard. The tyre blew as I collected my equipment and walked out of transition. The difference between a good result and a DNF was never closer. Mark Allen (USA) won the elite race in front of Glenn Cook while Erin Baker (NZ) dominated the womens race.

The highs and the lows

It took eleven long years after that first Worlds for triathlon to become an Olympic sport. I think it had to be fate that the Olympic debut was in Sydney, Australia, at the very minimum the spiritual home of triathlon. One of the greatest – and also the saddest - experiences in my (triathlon) life. The great side was sitting in the commentary box with some fantastic Aussie commentators, knowing that the triathlon world was watching this race. And the sad part? Seeing Sian Brice, whom I was coaching, crash out on the cycle section and being prevented by the medics from getting back on her bike. All those years of training and yet... ...and yet, Sian had been there. An Olympian, the first ever Olympic triathlon. Was it worth it? Worth all the heartache. Of course, a million times over.

And then, only a few years after, we reflect. The women’s winner of that fabulous Olympics later testing positive for an illegal substance. That’s not sport, that’s just dirty. But the men’s winer, Simon Whitfield of Canada, largely unsung before the event, proving it was most certainly not a fluke by taking the Commonwealth title just two years later in Manchester.

And then the Commonwealths in Manchester, another Olympics and Commonwealths in Athens and Melbourne, and then onto Beijing and, of course, 2012 in London. Sadly we miss out on the next Commonwealths in India in 2010, a great shame.

What's my brief?

I have an open brief on this so I get to reminisce and run through all the nice things, some of the not so nice things. I also get to tell you about the athletes, coaches, team managers, all those lovely people involved in triathlon that I’ve met along the way. But for this first article, let me start by talking about some who are involved with this project. Keep sweating guys, the rest of you later...

The main man, Henry Budgett, came along to a training weekend I was running with Pete Metalli of Banana Leisure fame some time in the early 90s and we met up there. Henry then gave me a really hard time at a BTA AGM when I didn’t have the right answers for him on some questions about Coach Education; quite right too!

I also met that lovely man, John Levison, on a training weekend. He was a young Loughboro student and he then joined us on our warm weather camp in Malta; late eighties or maybe early nineties. John had entered the Gozo to Malta race that takes in an eight mile run from the West to the East coast of Gozo, then (and this is the tough bit) a three mile swim across the Comino channel before a final 25 mile bike section from Circewwa on the North coast down to Birzubuggia in the South of Malta. We also had Matt on the camp also entered in the Gozo to Malta race. My lasting impression of this is of sitting on the Malta to Gozo ferry going over early morning to the race start with Matt eating a greasy hamburger and John turning decidedly green watching him and anticipating the swim. John then parted company with the little he had been able to eat for breakfast, but had a great race and finished the event.

John’s had a tough old time recently, dealing with cancer is one of those things that we pray never touches us. But John dealt with it; much respect. More of John, and others, next time.

Steve Trew About the Author

Steve Trew has decided that it is OK to play the “IF” game in one particular area; that of age. However, everyone knows that triathletes are like good wine; the older the better. Steve can be reached for coaching and for training camps on [email protected] He is still taking his chances, still coaching, still writing and still commentating. We think it’s about time he got a real job.

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