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Chrissie Wellington & Craig Alexander – The Veteran Champions

  • By Triathlete.com
  • Published Aug 21, 2011
  • Updated Sep 21, 2011 at 7:07 PM UTC

CA: So has it been fun to watch? I mean he’s blossomed into a world class athlete, he’s getting podiums in big races and regularly has the quickest bike split and one of the quickest runs. He got third in Arizona last year. That must have been fun to watch.

CW: That was such a special day, sharing that race with him. I was more excited about his race than I was about mine, because he surpassed even his expectations. He hadn’t done any marathon training. He only decided when I didn’t race Kona and then two weeks after that I thought: What race am I going to do? I’ll do Arizona. He said, “Well I’ll do it as well.” I said, “Really? You haven’t really done any marathon specific training.” And he said, “I don’t care.” That’s the way he looks at it. He’s just such a go-getter. So he went in just determined to do as well as he could with what he had and it was a phenomenal result. And there’s just so much room for improvement – that’s what’s exciting. His swim’s improving. He’s never going to be a front pack swimmer, but he’s such a phenomenal biker that I believe he can bike his way into contention. And he’s a good runner. You know he’s done a 30-minute 10k in the past and he’s shown that he can do sub-2:50, which is where you need to be at the very least. So yeah, I think it’s exciting. I’m just hoping he has enough points in the bag now to get into Kona – it’s a bit touch and go but we’ll find out at the end of July. It would be wonderful to race, together – I don’t think there are too many couples that have raced Kona. Rinny and T.O. will be there this year.

CA: They should start a category, combined times. Win a weekend in a honeymoon suite in Maui!

CW: Yeah, lets get on that! But really, it’s great – it’s great to share the training with him and just to have someone to share this whole crazy life with. Because there are not too many people that can understand what we do and empathize and support what I want to do and likewise I can support him. So I feel pretty fortunate.

CA: So tell me about the British strength in triathlon?

CW: The Aussies have done well, too!

CA: Yeah, I think both our nationalities have done pretty well!

CW: You’re a bigger island though, you’ve got more to choose from – a bigger pot!

CA: Yeah, we’ve got a big deserted island! But at the moment you’ve got you and Julie going well and obviously Helen Jenkins and the Brownlee boys are tearing it up.

CW: I don’t know what it is. I mean last year at Kona we had Julie and Rachel Joyce. Leanda’s doing really well at 70.3’s this year, she’s won a handful. And yeah, on the ITU side what the Brownlees are doing is phenomenal for the sport and their profile is increasing week on week in the UK, which is great for our sport, even though they’re focused on Olympic distance. It’s snowballing and I’m starting to get more mainstream interviews because of that. I don’t know why Britain is having so much success. I think it is a snowball effect, where people have national champions and they realize that it might be possible for them too to achieve those goals. There’s a great club structure in the UK, though I don’t think that’s unique to the UK, but there are 200-300 clubs on a very small island with a great support network. There are races every single weekend. But again I don’t think that’s unique – so I’m not entirely sure what you can attribute it to. But hopefully what myself and Rachel and Leanda and Julie and the Brownlees are doing will again bring more talent out.

CA: I think that’s the way it works, really. I know certainly in Australia on the men’s side we had Greg Welch, Brad Beven and Miles Stewart and on the women’s side we had Michellie Jones, Emma Carney and Jackie Gallagher – and they were all world champions and Olympians and what not. So I think it’s sort of incentive for the next generation coming through that it can be done. You know I think when the first batch breaks through it opens the door for everyone else to follow. It just creates a nice culture within the country, trying to emulate what the people before you have done.

CW: It does surprise me that countries like the U.S. don’t have as many champions.

CA: I think they have a huge talent pool, I think there are just so many other sports that the talented athletes get sucked away to. I mean you’re like me, you’re a bit of a late starter – I started in my early 20’s and I think you were a little bit later than that. But I know in Australia now a lot of the talented kids are getting scouted at 10 or 11 years of age.

CW: What do you think about that, though?

CA: Well, I think the main thing is it has to be fun. I mean an endurance sport, you’re not going to blossom until you’re in your 20’s or even 30’s, so I think its important that – maybe ITU’s a little different, and maybe guys to girls a little different as well, but it’s the kind of sport where I think it’s perfect to go and get a Uni education while you’re training, while you’re learning the fundamentals of technique. That’s where I think great coaching and mentoring comes into it. You’re not going to win world titles in your teens, and at best I guess if you are a freak like Alistair [Brownlee}, you might only be earning them in your early 20’s, like [Simon] Lessing did as well, or Spencer Smith. I think history shows that in the Olympic distance you can win in your early 20’s, in half ironman or ironman it comes later than that. So the main thing is to still love it and be involved at that point and not be burned out on it.

CW: That’s what I worry about. I get emails all the time from kids – and parents of kids – asking: What training should my six year old be doing? Or: My 11 year old is about to do her first Olympic distance race. And I don’t know how to respond because you want to encourage children to do sport and it’s a great sport and it’s a healthy sport, and I think it’s wonderful to have the variety that swimming and biking and running brings, rather than just doing the one sport, but then again I just want them to take their time. I have seen teenagers in the UK who, now that they’ve reached their 20’s, they’re done. They’re super talented, but they’re done physically and mentally, because there was too much pressure too soon.

CA: I think it’s just got to be fun. And the best thing anyone – a coach or anyone – can do is give you the fundamentals and building blocks. Learning great technique, core strength, biomechanics – that sort of thing. And that appreciation that you’re going to be around for a while, so have fun. Maybe travel a little bit, get a taste for it, but also maybe get a Uni education or learn a trade or get a job. And maybe in your early 20’s get a little more serious about it. The good foundation, especially with swimming, technique is key. That’s what you need to teach kids when they’re young. But even more important than that is to just have fun. There’s no point in doing it if you’re just dragging by the head at the pool every day.

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