Multiple Lifetime Fitness Champion. Greg is the longest serving and highest ever pro earner on the circuit.
On Friday Greg Bennett announced his retirement from professional triathlon. For those who don’t know the history of the sport it’s important that his career is acknowledged for the legacy it holds. I won’t focus on Greg’s results, which include titles over three decades, but instead provide some insight as to why I believe he is the very essence of what makes this sport so special.
I first laid eyes on this bull of a man in the very early 90s as a young, ambitious guy. My first impressions were that he was not a natural swimmer, strong on the bike, but could only run ‘OK’ for 3km. In fact I vividly remember thinking ‘this guy should be a rugby player, what’s he doing in triathlon?’
But there was a character and determination that came through very clearly of ‘I want to make myself something great’. And in our sport that’s still the biggest talent there is.
Over the next couple of years he got better, putting that big frame to use in turning a strong bike into an uber one and joining the bike axes of Australian triathlon. He still didn’t swim like the top guys at this time, but he now had a weapon and in the short, explosive races of the Formula One he put it to work. Many a time one would see Greg blasting off the front laying it all on the line only to see the ‘Big 4’ of Bevan (Brad), Welchy (Greg Welch), Miles (Stewart) and Macca (Chris McCormack) run him down in the last 800m.
At that time I saw something too, here was a man of enormous courage and conviction.
It was a pair of very fragile bonds that brought us together for a period of time in 1996 through to 2000/1 season. As Greg noted in his thank you post, he still remembers (or has night terrors) of my remedy for being run down too many times around the 3km mark.
If he wanted to run a strong 10km and be a world class Olympic distance athlete there was a way. It would come down to whether he wanted it badly enough. Did he want it? He craved it. We decided that constant speed and sets at race pace over race distance would be his medicine and Greg drank bottles of it. Some weeks we did nothing but 200s at race pace on the treadmill. As he recalled:
In the late 90’s I learned how to train hard and how much more my body could take even when I thought I had nothing left. I’ll never forget setting the treadmill to 22.5km/hr +1° and Brett saying “35sec run, 25sec off.., until you drop!” (I managed 150 until he said enough).
And when most around him thought that was enough, he would keep on. It was not me that kicked his arse, but Greg who kicked his own.
The desire burned and he turned a rugby player body into an Olympian, World Champion, the longest serving and highest ever pro earner on the circuit. For more than two decades, until exactly last Friday, there wasn’t a competitor on the circuit who when they saw GB with a bike and run shoes in transition didn’t get a gnawing feeling in the pit of their stomach that ‘today’s going to be tough’.
And what better tribute to give than that? His whole career was built on guts, determination, desire, but also detail.
There has not been a male triathlete who has squeezed more out of what he had been given. He has also inspired race results from my athletes for the last 15 years. I’ve held up GB up as an example to every athlete that’s wanted to give me the excuse for ‘I don’t have the talent’.
‘No talent? GB’s been on a diet for 20 years! Not just food, but a diet of over training for most humans because he was willing to pay the price not many others in this sport would ever be prepared to!’
And so while his retirement for those new to the sport will be seen as another high performance pro finishing up, I want it known for our own team here and new athletes that the Greg Bennett legacy lives on. He is an inspiration for all – age group and pro. Very much in the mould of a Belinda Granger or Bella Bayliss, people who took little talent and backed it with a huge heart, a work ethic that scared most pros and then added street smarts to make themselves champions who never burned out!
Why didn’t they? Because they loved every minute of the blood, sweat and tears. They just wouldn’t allow it to happen. Unlike most pros of today, they knew they were living a dream and never took it for granted.
Greg Bennett is an icon of our sport and every new athlete deserves to know of this journey. Champion athlete, champion person and as the last of that generation there will not be another like him!
Championship Highlights • International Triathlon Union World Series Champion 2002, 2003 • Olympic Games 2004, Athens, 4th • Australian Champion 1998,1999 • Australian long course champion (Half Ironman) 2000 • Oceania Champion 1998, 1999 • USA Champion 1996, 2003 • Czech Champion 1996,1997
Life Time Series Champion • Twice – US Open Champion 2007, 2008 • Four time – Los Angeles Triathlon Champion 2000, 2006, 2007, 2008 • Four time – New York Triathlon Champion 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009 • Chicago 2007 • Minneapolis 2007
World Cup Titles • Monaco, Monte Carlo World Cup Champion 1997 • Sydney, Australia World Cup Champion 1999 • Cancun, Mexico World Cup Champion 2001 • Gamagori, Japan World Cup Champion 2002 • Hamburg, Germany World Cup Champion 2003 • Ishigaki, Japan World Cup Champion 2003