Exclusive: Simon Whitfield retires

Four-time Olympian and 2000 gold medal winner to hang up the tri-suit

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Speaking to 220 at this year’s Interbike show in Vegas, Canadian triathlete Simon Whitfield revealed that he’s hanging up the tri-suit instead of pursuing a career in Ironman racing.

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“I’m done. I have time with my kids now that I didn’t have before,” the four-time Olympian said. “I miss it, it was so much fun and I’ll miss the guys like Javier Gomez, who’s one of the nicest people you could ever meet, but it’s run its course. You have to travel to be a part of the training squads and I get my weekends now.”

Whitfield, who won the 2000 Olympic title and was second at Beijing 2008, also elaborated on why he wouldn’t be lured back into the ITU fold, even with the ITU World Championships being held in Edmonton, Canada, in 2014. “I don’t know how to do it at 90%; if I went back I’d like to have a crack at beating these two (points to the Brownlees on 220’s October cover) but that level of commitment would be too much. But I will beat them at FIFA.”

Below is our interview with Simon at Interbike…

Where does your sporting future now lie?

I’m paddle boarding and playing soccer a lot in Victoria. I’m working on different ventures like product development with 4iiii [see the next issue of 220 for more], an affordable online coaching enterprise and a new format of tri with a major TV broadcaster. The goal is to make the racing more accessible; unless you love triathlon, it’s a long race to watch. For mass appeal there needs to be bolder changes to the format. Kitzbuhel was a step in the right direction but I’ve an idea for a new format.

Is it something you took to the ITU?

I haven’t had a call from them. I’ve never had anything to do with Ironman but I went to Ironman Canada recently to fire the starting pistol and hand out the finisher’s medals. But I’ve had nothing from the ITU in 17 years of racing. I finished and it was over.

But we see yourself, Hamish Carter and Macca as the people who should be ambassadors for the ITU.

I think the ITU have done a very poor job with promoting, embracing and capturing the history of the sport. If you ask the people from the sport now; “Who’s Brad Bevan?” I’m sure they’d have no idea. He should be the [five-time Tour De France champ] Bernard Hinault of the sport. Ironman have done great job in that with things like the Iron War.

And I don’t say that from a self-serving point-of-view but where are the Bevans, Michellie Jones’, Greg Welches? There are a lot of iconic triathletes that have nothing to do with the ITU anymore. There’s no folklore like Ironman. The audience needs a history or story to relate to. The current guys are the fastest ever but does that mean, in eight years from now, it’ll be like ‘next!’

How does the standard of ITU racing today compare to when you started?

I talk to Macca [Chris McCormack] about it he agrees that the Brownlees and Javier Gomez have taken it to a new level; it’s so fun to watch. The ITU have given them a platform but about it’s the way they race and the attitude they have. Lessing in his prime would go head-to-head with them as he was that good a swimmer, that good on the bike and he had the same drive as Alistair Brownlee.

Are you surprised that the other competitors don’t try and disrupt them more?

Alistair’s personality means that he goes out and just dominates the bike. He’s ruthless out there and an intense competitor. No-one has the answer to beating him right now but someone will work it out. And I feel for Javier as he’s racing against brothers so that must be tough for him.

How do the Brownlees, Alistair especially, now stay at that level?

I’d love to see them go across to more distances like 70.3s, but to do it for real and not just dabble. It’ll be interesting to see how Ali’s injuries affect him now. It’s undeniable that we’re starting to see more of them and he trains at such a intensity that longevity might not be there. I never had an injury in my career but it worries me about Alistair. If you do that Achilles one too many times… it’d be awful if it became chronic. I relate to him as he loves competing and I love that as well. I’ve never trained with him but I imagine he’s a difficult guy to train with like I was.

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Image: Delly Carr