15 Chris McCormack
Chris McCormack, known as Macca, is famed as a master tactician, triathlon historian, purveyor of pre-race words of warfare more akin to boxing, and one hell of an athletic performer.
All these traits and more were evident on 9 October 2010, when the Australian multisport legend won his self-proclaimed masterpiece, the Ironman World Championships, his victory over Andreas Raelert being instantly labelled an Iron War for the 21st century.
Everything that has made him a fascinating, fearless and formidable presence on the triathlon circuit for two decades was distilled into that famous victory. But the seeds of success were planted in Hawaii twelve months before, with his disappointing fourth place in the 2009 event.
In his book I’m Here to Win, Macca recalls how he began publicly recruiting strong bikers such as Timo Bracht, Marino Vanhoenacker and Faris Al Sultan to form an alliance with him on the bike leg in a bid to topple the stronger runners – especially Australia’s reigning Ironman world champ Craig Alexander – in the 2010 contest.
The unprecedented plan may have drawn criticism for not being in the spirit of the (individual) sport, yet on that suitably sticky day in Hawaii it came together. After a series of calculated bike surges throughout the 180km course the alliance had dealt with Alexander’s chances of victory, creating for Macca a nine minute advantage out of T2. His chief concern now was the presence of rising German Raelert two minutes behind him.
Raelert caught Macca with 5km of the run to go. After over seven hours and 221km of racing it would come down to a 5,000m duel between the proven winner and the German new kid on the block, four years Macca’s junior. In one of the sport’s most iconic moments Macca turned to Raelert and said, ‘Andreas, best of luck. No matter what happens here, you’re a champion. May the best man win.’
Macca would prove to be the champion, crossing the line in 8:10:37 to win the greatest Ironman Hawaii race of the 21st century.
Born in April 1973, Macca grew up in southern Sydney. Surfing was his first love but it was his early displays of running prowess that got him a scholarship at the University of New South Wales. Macca had been intrigued by triathlon when he annually watched the ABC Wide World of Sports highlights of Ironman Hawaii.
His first triathlon came in 1992, when he showed up at the Wollongong Triathlon and beat the nation’s best junior athletes by virtue of a 31min 10km run split.
McCormack graduated in 1995, moved to France, joined the ITU circuit and rarely looked back, winning his first elite race as a wild-card entry at the 1996 ITU World Cup in Drummondville, Canada. In 1997 he'd become the only man to win the ITU World Cup series and the ITU World Championship title in the same season.
In 2002 he turned his attention to Ironman, winning Ironman Australia on his long-course debut in April 2002: the first of four consecutive victories.
Things at Hawaii weren’t so easy for him. He arrived on a wave of hype (some of it self-generated) in 2002 and failed to finish; he came 59th in 2003 and failed to finish again in 2004.
By chance, the race vehicle that picked Macca up after his 2004 defeat was being driven by one Mark Allen, who suggested to him that he should enter fewer iron-distance races during the season. After that Macca went on to finish sixth in 2005, then second the following year – behind his new nemesis Normann Stadler (there was evidently no love lost between the two). Finally he captured the Ironman Hawaii title in 2007 after outpacing Craig Alexander on the run.
220 said: "A true character of the sport, Macca can be counted on for a ‘candid’ comment on almost any topic. What we like to call ‘an interviewer’s dream’ and a pleasure to observe both on and off the course."
Ironman World Champion 2007 & 2010
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