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Where is our coach?

Trisutto China Brett Sutton JP

As I'm sure many of our Trisutto family pondered when coach had some members of the Chinese Triathlon Team training in St Moritz in 2022, it was of little surprise to most of us when he said “I need to spend some time in China to get these guys in to competitive shape”.  

I thought the way he would approach it would be two or three camps of up to a month. However I should have known that's not his way. He nonchalantly advised us that he was off to China, but didn't extrapolate that he had gone all in, and 14 months later he is still there!

Not much has changed for most of us, our emails, WhatsApp communication are all still answered in quick time. However, I often thought that while he has a small squad, does this impact them? My personal travels means I’m closer to China than most. So while in Malaysia doing a small training getaway, I contacted the boss and asked how he was and where in China he was stationed. To my surprise he said you’re only a 2 to 3 hour flight away, why don't you come over and see for yourself as nothing I say really gets believed about China. I thought why not? I had 5 days clear on my schedule, I could go and then report back to all our Trisutto members how our coach still functions in China.

I flew from Singapore into Kunming, a small city by Chinese standards in the south west. It’s nowhere near the large cities of Beijing or Shanghai, but sits above Vietnam, Laos and Thailand. Kunming was where I thought camp was, as coach was there last year, but now he has moved an hour south to Yuxi. So I had the hotel shuttle pick me up.

Coach had explained to me previously that his coaching base was in the national team camp and thus none of us age group athletes could stay or train there. Also the bike riding in many places is not safe by western standards, so he has kept looking for suitable training venues for his Trisutto athletes to visit.

Yuxi is at 1687m altitude, so it surprised me that I could wear a t-shirt at the start of Spring. On arrival at the hotel most of my preconceived ideas were totally dissolved. I stayed in the same hotel as the professional athletes which was 3+ stars, modern, clean and comfortable. On greeting me the boss said I'll show you the eating facilities, as your package has three buffet meals a day included, no restrictions (followed quickly by “only the ones I put on you”). He was making his first  point that JP looks a little bigger than the last time he saw me.

As we visited the dining room that was overlooking the track, one of my self deliberations was answered straight away at lunch as it seemed the whole professional crew from St Moritz had migrated and were eating together in China, it was surreal. Then coach Susie walks in, usually based in Australia.

Trisutto Triathlon Brett Sutton China Yuxi JP

This base is unique as it is a ‘private public’ partnership, and foreigners can stay and use all the facilities just like the Chinese team. So I asked coach to explain what it's like to be here? He said, 'ask the athletes what they think of it, no one was told they had to come. Get their opinion. My job is basically the same every day, no matter where I am. That is not so for them and their families, they had to overcome the western stories about what to expect here. I just told them I can provide a safe environment and come see for yourself, but I'm here up to the Olympics, and I’m thinking of staying even longer.'

I can report that every athlete used one phrase between all of them “It's perfect for training”. Some said the food is fantastic, and everyday the variety is endless. Fruit is always available at meals, and as I come from an Asian home setting I can only agree.

The training facilities for those of us that have to battle for pool space at home are out of this world. The Trisutto team and Chinese team have full use of a 10 lane 50m pool at 7am, and for super slow me I had an 8 lane 25m pool that I shared with the pool vacuum cleaner some mornings. There is a choice of 2 running tracks, both basically brand new. As the base is on the outside perimeter of town the roads are super quiet with two road loops, where in one area the bikes even have right away over the cars.

It might be only a 3km loop but to have little or no cars was amazing for China!  I asked the Swiss athletes if it is a bit boring riding here as it’s nothing like riding in Switzerland, and I was told “bring your bike next time, as only 2km from the hotel we have a 30km bike loop that makes Bernina Pass look easy, with 15km of 4 to 8% gradient, and the road is extremely good with very few cars or bikes for that matter. The Chinese don't seem to like the hill but we love it, it reminds us of home”.

I finished my interrogation by asking about Chinese races. “Every race is so well organised compared to home. You just can't believe the money spent on the infrastructure of small races here”.

With the travel, we can fly to Bangkok in 2.5 hours then get a direct flight to Europe. Last year some raced at the Laguna Phuket triathlon on a stop over on the way home from camp.  

After spending 5 days here, I can't wait to come back in a few months. It is a training Shangri-la. Yes it's isolated, where has coach been where it wasn’t, it's his DNA. However, to get away from it all for a week with meals completely catered for and with super training facilities in the most stable climate in Asia, it's going to be hard to top.

The bigger question is how is coach coping? 

He gives me the same answer “My life has been like the groundhog day movie for 30+ years.  Same training, same times, just in different places. See you at 6:55am for swim squad, don't be late”.

Yep, nothing has changed with him except he is a little greyer, still as grumpy, but he seems more tolerant. Chinese harmony, stealthily may be having a positive effect on him.

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