Chris McCormack was the only Australian to finish today’s Dextro Energy ITU Triathlon Elite Men’s World Champion Grand Final race as the Australian team fought its own war of attrition in Beijing today.
It was a tough day in the office for the Australian men’s team who lost rising star Brendan Sexton on the morning of the race with a nasty gastro bug which also added to the early retirement of Beijing Olympian Brad Kahlefeldt after the first run lap.
The Australians also lost another Beijing Olympian Courtney Atkinson towards the end of the run after he struggled to keep up the pace after a troubled year of niggling injuries.
So it was left to the 38-year-old two-time Ironman World Champion and former ITU Olympic distance World Champion McCormack to carry the Australian flag.
McCormack finished in 31st position from a field of 72 starters and for Macca his 31st placing is probably better than it sounds.
On paper there was only 45 seconds between 20th and 31st and two minutes between 10th and 31st.
Considering he gave away almost a minute on the swim and split 31 minutes 20 seconds for his 10km run, there certainly remains light at the end of his Olympic tunnel.
It was a positive finish for McCormack in what has been a tough comeback year as he chases that Olympic dream for London 2012.
But he knows what he has to do if he has any chance of keeping that Olympic dream alive and that’s to improve his swim.
“I realise I can’t match it with these younger guys if I keep coming out towards the back of the pack in the swim,” said McCormack.
“And I am also realistic that I’m never going to come out with the leaders either, but I just have to improve my aerobic capacity.”
So what’s the answer?
“I’ll have to go back to my old swimming coach Dick Caine and get stuck into some serious swimming training,” said McCormack.
“You can’t survive on 10km a week for 10 years anymore when you’re trying to race at this level – these kids are quick. Those Brownlee brothers are amazing.
“The pace of these races compared to years ago has certainly stepped up that’s for sure.
“I used to swim with Dick ‘back in the day’ and it’s time to go knocking on the old guy’s door again I think.”
And McCormack is excited about the future of Australian Triathlon and has enjoyed being part of the Australian Team camp in Europe this year and wants to put as much back into the sport as he can.
“If I can help these young guys achieve their dreams and offer them as much guidance as I can and act as a mentor then that’s what I’m going to do,” said McCormack.
“I’m already going to run some camps at Cronulla this year with a host of the young guys and I’ll support the domestic season and go up and race Noosa and we’ll see what happens.”
And the Olympics?
“I’ll continue to give it a shot that’s for sure…and if it doesn’t work out then it’s off to Ironman New York,” said Macca.
In the short term it’s off to Yokohama to race the next round of the ITU World Championships where he will again keep the youngsters and the oldies honest.
Kahlefeldt said it was a tossup whether he was even going to start after he came down with the stomach bug last night and suffered cramping in the warm up.
“I felt OK in the swim and until the end of the bike but then I started to get cold and became quite disoriented and struggled to bend down to put my shoes on for the run,” said Kahlefeldt.
“I knew then it was all over and had no alternative but to pull out.”
Atkinson admitted he has probably had the worst year ever with little things going wrong.
“I made a decision to try a completely different approach and it was either going to work or it wasn’t,” said Atkinson, who tried to get himself in the race on the bike.
“I certainly got some positives out of it but I’m more confident than ever in the things I used to do that worked well for me.”