100 x 100!
Why is this swim set a great triathlon story compared to just any hard day? Please take the time not to rush through this, instead make a cup of coffee, give yourself 15 minutes to sit on the sofa and see what triathlon should be about. The stars of this moment are people who happen to be athletes who are great in their own right.
We all know Nicola Spirig who is the greatest ITU Olympic female of all time. Most know little of her friend Jane Fardell who joined her for three hours of madness this morning. This story is more about Jane than Nicola because she is the epiphany of all that is good in triathlon, but also what it wrong with it. A cameo role goes to Nina Derron who joined the girls for the birthday set at the Wallisellen aquatic centre this morning.
100 x 100 long course was organised by Nicola not me. The mum who is now 30 weeks into her third pregnancy decided that this was a great idea. 13 years into our coach athlete relationship The Champ keeps surprising me. Why would she want to do that? Jane might have answered best when I said to her 'you both must be mad'. 'Sutto she is like me, we just did it as a mental challenge, old habits die hard!. We just wanted to prove to ourselves we've still got what it takes!' So who is Jane Fardell? She is the flag bearer of a generation of outstanding individuals that triathlon in its mad rush to be a business and not a sport, left behind. You see Nicola is not my longest serving athlete. That title goes to Jane Fardell. I started advising Jane at 15, and today was her 39th birthday. Jane has been a member and supporter for 24 years. She has been there and watched the development of all the Trisutto champions. She shares not only a birthday with Nicola Spirig but also a few other qualities, and not just loyalty. She trains and still does every bit as hard, she has the same courage level as The Champ, she has the same pain tolerance - and if The Champ permits me, may say could have a higher one.
100 x 100 to be with your friend on a special occasion when you haven't swum seriously since Kona last year; all leaving on 1 minute 30 seconds. After an hour when her arms gave out, Jane hung on, and that sums up Jane the athlete, she always gives it all.
Want another clue, about her commitment? Jane lives in Australia, and when Nicola said she is going to do it on her own, her mad Aussie mate bought an air ticket and flew to Zurich as a surprise, to be standing there on pool deck to again show the bonds that make me proud about the Trisutto family. See why it's a great triathlon story, so many years, but 'I just felt I should support her'.
These are not 'two peas in a pod'. No two girls in triathlon would be so different in personality. Or culture. However triathlon brought them together and somehow the February 7 sisters formed this weird bond.
Jane is the only person I know that can have Nicola in stitches with laughter with one 'girl from Dubbo' sentence; and Nicola in just one action can have Jane say to me - 'is she for real or what?' Truely in the pool this morning was triathlons odd couple.
So that is the great part of the triathlon story, now the bad.
As Jane Fardell might not have been born with The Champs genes she was / is no ordinary age group athlete. While Nicola was winning the elite junior titles, Jane was winning the age group world junior title. She then went on to represent her country in triathlon also. She was known as a demon around the French race circuit where Jane could and would race every week, twice if possible. Then at about age 22, Jane embarked on a professional career as an Ironwomen. She put together her schedule for that season, and Jane hit the podium at least 5 times..., with a massive performance I still remember in Ironman Zurich where a 3 hour 2 minute run gave her a brilliant 2nd place finish.
So you could see how good Jane was. However, she stopped after that season. No not burn out as her career will point out later, but due to disillusionment in Ironman.
Jane is highly intelligent and also a girl 'from the bush' (as we say in Aus). She is not easily swayed by emotion. So when I discussed with her she said 'Sutto, I think 5 podiums in Ironman is a pretty good effort. But the facts are I won $14,000 for the year, but it's cost me $22,000 to make that happen. You know I'm frugal, I spent nothing on myself. Now I know I'm no superstar, and this maths might work for a lot of other girls who don't mind being funded by others, but for me, I pay my own way.'
It was not that Jane felt bad about losing money. She had done so before when she was a developing athlete. But when you're performing, and doing well athletically, and still lose that type of money, there is a need to think of something else. Don't feel sorry for Jane. She did go home, get a job, and switched to running. As her mate Nicola was following their triathlon dream, Jane went back home to the bush and ran 200km a week in the heat of Dubbo, Australia to develop her new career. I don't say love, that was always triathlon, but Jane is a persistent person and rose through the running ranks not on talent but bloody mindedness, made her money working full time, and a bit like Forrest Gump, run Jane run.
Her efforts were rewarded as she represented her state and then Australia in the world marathon champs in 2013. But here is the real story, in 2015 who should wander through the door in St. Moritz and want to qualify to go to her big dream of Kona that she never got to do. With her pro career missing the swimming and biking, she prepared as an age grouper to go where a sport with a proper career path that Ironman should have provided, would have seen her grace many times. Jane qualified for Kona and has finished the last 3 years in 3rd, 3rd and 4th in her category.
People keep asking me why does Nicola continue? And the point is, just like Jane, this is the sport they both love. Genes took care of one, the sport didn't take care of the other. We must strive to fix this for the future generations and that's where Nina makes up the trifecta.
Nina did triathlon as a kid, performed as an age grouper, but three seasons ago on an extended uni break, she headed to Australia with her little sister to live and train like a 'pro'. Nina too knows that the only place success comes before work is in the dictionary, and with her coach, she has gone from age grouper to pro, winning her first big race last year.
So Nina is starting the journey that Nicola and Jane have trod. Part of the Derron Sisters - yes there are three, all striving to carve out their professional careers.
What does an honest coach tell them? Follow your dream, as so many espouse, but understand this is basically an amateur sport. Any money generated goes to three different entities
- the best 10 athletes are the recipients of a relatively small amount of the pot, but a huge amount when looked at compared to say 25th in the world.
- the second but much larger amount, by federations because of the Olympic Rings
- the largest recipients, WTC Ironman company and its imitators, who hoover up the vast sums of money (founded by people who just wanted to test themself in a sporting endeavour)
As it was said to me recently, 'Sutto, you just don't get that it is a business, not a sport. As soon as you realise that you will be less frustrated.' Well, I will never agree that asking for 10% of revenues to go to athletes, and reverse engineer it so the top 100 in the world can make a basic living to cover food, rent, equipment and travel, is too much for our sport. Just as I don't think asking 100,000 triathletes out there to agree with me..., and get off their bike seats and do something about it! This mornings swim set showed to me how powerful and different our sport is. It allows the average person to race with our best. That makes our sport unique in its ability to bring people from all walks of life together. This is a sport that provides so much but gives so little back, it needs to see the bigger opportunities that doing so would bring to all.
Congratulations to my longest serving supporters. Today once again proved to me and all those triathlons followers worldwide, that you ladies have still got it.
Happy Birthday ladies!