Friday, December 7, 2012

Chrissie Wellington Retires

She came on the tri-scene out of nowhere. She had won, rather quietly, Ironman Korea and showed up at the Hawaii Ironman in 2007. She knew nothing of the competition - who to fear, history of the race, etc. I remember watching that race and what struck me at the time was the appearance. Her bike was not clean - you could see that it was in need of one. She was lacking the usual billboard of sponsors on his trisuit - in fact, it looked worn out. What was amazing, however, was how she dominated that race and, with a constant grin, how easily she won. Triathletes moving forward would quickly learn Chrissie was the real deal.

She stayed with Brett Sutton and Team TBB for another year before striking out on her own. She added another World Championship. She signed on with Cannondale - I ride a Cannondale so I was happy about that!

Her running style was a bit unorthodox but she had the turnover. She had the Ironman marathon record until run specialist Mirinda Carfrae came along. Mirinda now holds that title but by less than a minute and she doesn't even come close to Chrissie's swim and bike results.

She also had an unbelievable way of adapting to the Hawaiian heat - surprising given she's from England, not exactly the hotbed (pardon the pun) for heat acclimitization! 
Perhaps her greatest race was 2011 - her last race of her career. Just 2 weeks prior she had a bad bike crash which left her with bad enough injuries that making the start line was suspect. She did start the race and had to dig deep the entire day. Her swim and bike times were way off her usual and she went incredibly deep into the run to catch everyone in front of her to capture her 4th World Championship. It was clear that she was spent. Not long after she announced she'd be taking the year off to recover and promote her new book "A Life Without Limits".

I've read the book - it is a good read and she is very candid. It is also apparent from the book that triathlon is just one part of her life.

Overall Chrissie has never lost an Ironman that she started. She missed one race due to illness but no one could match her performances. Upon announcing her retirement I was quite surprised by the lack of response from the top tier female pros. Linsey Corbin, Melanie McQuaid, Julie Dibens were the only ones to honour her career and wish her luck. The likes of Leanda Cave, Mirinda Carfrae, Caroline Steffen have been weirdly silent. If anything I guess they are happy she's gone - more titles for them are now up for grabs! I really don't know if we will ever see such dominance again on either the men's or women's side. I recently saw Chrissie Wellington at the 2012 Hawaii Ironman. I happened to walk by the expo where she was signing autographs. She was engaging to each and every person she encountered and took the time to connect. Leanda Cave was also at the same booth signing autographs but could not be more opposite. They were ther for only an hour but it was clear Cave wanted nothing to do with it. Perhaps she was race-focused but, really, could she not be professional for one hour on a Wednesday before the race to satisfy the needs of the fans and, more importantly, the sponsors. Triathlon is still a fringe sport and to grow it we need professionals with personality. Take Craig Alexander, Chris McCormack and Wellington - they were/are the sponsors dream. They connect with everyone in the triathlon world hence the reason they were so sought after.

Enjoy the next phase Chrissie - I'm sure you will be a success!


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