“Kona was the biggest highlight of my life,” says Greg Welch
Australia’s first Ironman Hawaii champion recalls beating Dave Scott on his '94 comeback to the lava fields of Big Island
With this year’s Ironman World Championship just days away, we look back at one of the sport’s most memorable moments on Big Island – when Australia’s Greg Welch outpaced Kona legend Dave Scott in 1994 to become its first non-American male winner.
Dave Scott hadn’t raced Hawaii since the infamous Iron War against Mark Allen in ’89 but decided to come back five years later at the age of 40. Allen was notably absent, but a tenacious 30-year-old from Campsie, Sydney had already placed third as an age-grouper in '89 and second as a pro in '91, and had his eye firmly set on the big prize...
“Kona was the biggest highlight of my life,” Welch tells 220. “I still see Hawaii as being the sport’s premier race outside of the Olympic Games. Those are the two races that you want to win. Mentally, Mark [Allen] and Dave [Scott] are two of the toughest guys you could ever encounter. I knew he’d be strong but not that strong. He’s such a tough nut. That was way ahead of its time when Dave Scott showed that age was just a number.
“He pushed me all the way. That was my best race in Hawaii. Everything came together. My swim was perfect, the nutrition came together. The year before I had got married and had a bad crash where I crushed my knee. I wasn’t good in the early part of the year and crushed Pauli Kiuru at Ironman Japan which gave me confidence in Hawaii.
“Jurgen Zack sprinted for the $1,500 premium at 85-miles and I went to get up out of the saddle and Dave just says, 'Greg, Greg, Greg… the race is here. Don’t worry about that, the $25,000 cheque is back here.' I didn’t know if he was joking but he’s won six times so I was going to race him. Always race the competition.
“I passed Jurgen in transition and 30miles in I get my first glimpse of Dave, running like he always does with his hands going across his body and his left leg duckfooting out of the back. I caught Kenny Glah at 9-miles and only looked back twice and my two splits on Dave were 24secs both times. He hadn’t won or lost a second in the whole of the 30k run. Dave always said the day was always won or lost at the Energy Lab on the run.
“That day I got a split in the Energy Lab to say the gap was 32secs. That day I’d beaten the master in the Energy Lab. All I needed to do was hold on for the last 10k. I just needed to repeat my best 10k brick training run and bang, it happened. I got back to Australia three weeks later and they welcomed me off the plane. Being the first non-American to ever win and the first Australian opened the floodgates for Macca, Crowie and Pete Jacobs."
(Image: Nils Nilsen)
For lots more on the career highlights of Greg Welch, pick up the December 2014 issue of 220 Triathlon, which goes on sale on 11 November