Although it has only been around since the 1970s, triathlon has a rich history of influential athletes that were vital to the sport’s success. John Newsom and Bevan James Eyles, the two New Zealanders behind the weekly IMTalk podcast, wanted to highlight the well-known and not-so-well-known multisport figures in their monthly show Legends of Triathlon. So far they’ve interviewed five legends, including Erin Baker, the outspoken athlete who helped equalize prize money for females, and Simon Whitfield, the sport’s first Olympic gold medalist.
This month features the quick-witted Australian Greg Welch, the first non-American to win the Ironman World Championship. In addition to recounting his 1994 victory, he talks about racing during the sport’s early years and explains what led to his abrupt retirement in 2000.
Welch raced Kona 10 times, starting in 1987 when he got 45th overall as an age grouper. He came back in 1988 and won his age group, coming in 19th overall. Then in 1989, he shockingly placed third—with a 8:32:16—as an amateur “with a piece of crap bike that didn’t even have aerobars.” And yes, 1989 was that year, the year of the famous Iron War. He ran through the field, passing well-known pros such as Scott Tinley and Kenny Glah to sneak into third place. He earned $8000 and went pro, which eventually led to his “perfect day” in 1994. Although his career ended in 2000 due to heart issues (he’s had 12 surgeries since the problems arouse), he remains active in the sport, working for Oakley and as a commentator for WTC events.
Listen to interviews with Welch and others at Legendsoftriathlon.com.