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Ruffling Feathers: Response to Macca Comments

Red Bull TV Documentary ‘2 Fast: Journey of Triathlon Legends’.

This week I was asked to comment on some of the opinions made by Chris McCormack regarding Daniela Ryf, and his view that she can no longer beat Holly Lawrence and Heather Jackson over the 70.3 distance:

It’s the first time in two years I haven’t seen her look dominating. I mean, she’s got a long way to fall before she loses. Don’t get me wrong, she’s been lightyears above everyone. But it seems to me and I’m happy to be corrected and want to be corrected, is that she’s hit the top of that mountain – in that Sutto mountain climbing thing. And he’s done it with all his athletes. And you know a lot of these Ironman’s – she had the back to back Ironman wins last year. These things slowly accumulate, right, and the fresher athlete comes through and starts to shine. I think Holly (Lawrence) and Heather (Jackson) could be those two athletes. I think they’re amazing. It’s a long way to fall, but at the 70.3 distance I don’t think Daniela can beat these two girls any more! Right, she’s more Ironman and she’s lost that speed base. She may correct me and being part of the Bahrain Team she may pull me aside for this and say ‘You arsehole, you’re supposed to be on my side’ but I’m just calling it how I see it…

Chris McCormack, MaccaX

The comments were made following a third place at Challenge Gran Canaria. Only the second time she hasn’t won a 70.3 distance race in 4 years.

Now I have no problem with Macca making his views known just like any other commentator. If I paid attention to every person expressing uneducated views on athletes the annoyance would have driven me insane decades ago. But unlike most others, Macca is supposed to be the manager of Daniela’s own Team.

And while he may well be very excited about the success of his new race project, as well as having the Prince’s ear and cheque book to sign new athletes, like many excitable people he seems to have lost a total sense of context.

First rule of being a good leader is that you take care of your own. If you have something to say about an athlete that may damage their confidence you keep it private and don’t broadcast it to the general public. Daniela has been struggling with an injury for a long period now. It’s an injury caused largely by being a team member for Bahrain in the first place. We know the extended season racing in Dubai and Bahrain may be shortening her career. But she is well paid, is a team player and has performed at those events with true professionalism.

Since joining Team Bahrain she has delivered 2 Kona World Championships, a 70.3 World Championship and kept the Triple Crown in house for her sponsors. To be disrespected by the manager on the whim of new signings doesn’t really instil a lot of confidence in the team culture.

Holly Lawrence has yet to provide anything but hope to Team Bahrain. Heather Jackson is a gutsy pro with my full respect, but I’d imagine would be similarly embarrassed by Macca’s above statements.

As to a ‘loss of speed base’ – just absolutely no idea. Unlike most Ironman athletes the Bird non-drafting is the fastest short course on the planet. If he wants to find out, I’m sure he can put the money together for a match race. Could be Daniela vs. Gwen when she’s back, head to head, as short as he wants.

Because that is where I personally believe he has found his after racing niche. The production of the Super League races was everything that the sport needs and I have no doubt Macca choreographed every step of it. It was a masterpiece that put the current Ironman and ITU offerings to shame. The potential in this area in unlimited and so I’d advise him to stick to it and leave the athletic assessments to those who know what they’re talking about.

As to the inevitable questions that will arise surrounding form and injury. The season hasn’t even begun yet and judgments are rarely made wisely off the basis of an individual race. One thing is certain though, you don’t win 4 world titles without being made of iron. Trash talk won’t ruffle the Bird’s feathers.

To put it all into perspective, here is a piece of film that shows two of the greatest Ironman athletes the sport has known. I have been one of the biggest admirers of Natascha Badmann for near 20 years. To do what she did with what talent she had is a testament to the human spirit. And I think the way both athletes go about their business is the way we should really be judging form and careers:


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