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Tim Don on missing the Olympics

Fresh from missing out on the 2012 squad, Tim Don opens up on the Olympic selection and what lies ahead

220: Where are you today Tim?
Don: I’m at a training day for the Holiday Inn competition winners. I’m with Will Clarke, Hollie Avil and Simon Ward and we’re about to head to the track for some run drills and transition practice. Most of the winners are doing Blenheim and the London Triathlon, with a lot of them first timers… so we’re letting them know what they’ve let themselves into! But it’s good for them to quiz our brains and for us to pass advice onto them.

Is coaching a future role for you?
I’m obviously not a qualified coach (laughs) but the sport has given me so much since the mid 90s and it’s great to see people who are as enthusiastic as me who haven’t been doing it for as long. If I can be a part of triathlon for the foreseeable future then I’m all up for it. But I’d like to think I’ve got a few more years racing in me, whether it’s ITU, Commonwealth Games, Olympics, Ironman, XTERRA… the more I can do with like-minded people, the happier I’ll be.

Given your omission from the 2012 squad, is middle- and long-distance racing next for you? Especially with your fourth place at Ironman 70.3 South Africa in 2009…
Absolutely. When I first got involved in ’93, ’94, tri wasn’t an Olympic sport and the aim was to win ITU World Champs and then go on to Ironman Hawaii, which is what Greg Welch did [Welch won the ITU Worlds in 1990 and Kona in ‘94].
I went to Hawaii last year to watch and I had a ball. But the one thing I learnt was that it’s not something to rush into; I won’t be doing an Ironman for at least a couple of years. I’m still competitive in the short-course, I’m ranked seventh in the world even after a couple of races so I don’t want to blow my speed out of the window by riding a million k over the winter!

You mentioned a bad race, what happened in Madrid?
I twinged my hip flexor and I knew it was seizing up that morning. I knew it would be touch and go whether I could bring out a performance to reflect where my training’s at. Alas, as soon as I hit the run, I had no power or drive in my left leg. It’s one of the races this year that I didn’t want it to happen in!

The buzzword is currently domestique but you’ve had qualification processes for the last four Olympics.
Domestiques are talked about a million times more than they’re implemented across the board. If you look at the powerhouses of triathlon – the Germans, French, the Kiwis and Aussies – they don’t use domestiques on a regular basis… and the British don’t either.
I’ve no idea how it’ll turn out. Mark Cavendish has a whole harem of domestiques but they’re employed specifically for that for a long period and they train together and work out their tactics together. If our federation go the domestique way, there’s only 60 days until the Games to do this. Do they really need domestiques? Are the coaches covering their own arses? I’ve no idea. Jonathan doesn’t need one, although we don’t know what shape Alistair is in.

The way plenty of people see it is, with podiums and your former World Champ title, why not let you and Will [Clarke] have a blast at making the podium?
That’s how I see it, well, maybe not about Will [laughs]!

Ha, is he stood next to you?!
No, he’s inside!

Where can we see you next then, Tim?
At Windsor (17 June) and then the next round of the series at Kitzbuhel (23 June).

It’s somewhat overlooked that the ITU World Championship Series is still going on. Is the Grand Final in Auckland an aim?
I know. If I can keep my position I can definitely go but, unfortunately, financially Auckland is a hugely expensive trip. You want to be there a few weeks before so you’re talking thousands of pounds with accommodation, hiring a pool, massages to do it properly as an elite athlete. But if I’ve got a shout for an overall series top five then I’ll be there.

We published Scott Neyedli’s winnings this issue and the prize money was shockingly low.
If you come 11th at Sydney you win $1,800 dollars, which doesn’t cover flight, accommodation and all the training. Especially when you’ve got the French GP and Bundesliga in Germany that are paying double that just to turn up. With a family you need to make smart decisions and I’ve sacrificed a lot of races for the Olympics and now those sacrifices have to come good.

Top image: Janos Schmidt, Delly Carr/ITU

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After earning short-course kudos as a 3 x Olympian, 4 x ITU World Champion (in triathlon and duathlon) and countless ITU World Cup victories, Tim Don turned his attention to the half-Ironman distance. His unrivaled foot pace and light, lithe running form transitioned seamlessly to longer racing, resulting in a tidy collection of Ironman 70.3 titles, as well as an Ironman victory in his first attempt at the distance. He also holds the British Ironman record of 7:40:23. Despite his warm and slightly eccentric personality, this versatile competitor is often considered a favourite at any distance! He shot to fame in 2017 when he was hit by a car in training just two days prior to the Ironman World Championships. With fractured vertebrae, Tim was given a Halo, a metal structure which screwed directly into his skull, to help speed up the healing process. Tim is now a full-time triathlon coach.