The Aussie way is to typically bring down successful people instead of applauding them. We see this every day. Not just in triathlon but in many sports. In the USA there is a very different culture which predominantly is to encourage and support successful people. Tim Berkel cops this more than most and when you look at his background prior to triathlon it is hard to find why this would be the case.
Berkel has only been doing triathlons since he was 19. He did not do any swimming, cycling or running prior to this. He does not have the swimming or running background that most pros do.
Berkel played footy and lived the lifestyle that went with it which was not conducive to the sort of training required for our sport of triathlon. “I started triathlons to get fit and change my lifestyle. Initially it was just for fun but I soon decided that it was something I wanted to do more seriously.”
Without a running or swimming base that most of his competitors had he has always performed above where he should. “You play to your strengths in triathlon. It is a sport of three disciplines and whether you win with a killer swim, an Ã¼ber bike or lightening fast run it is all about who gets to the line first. That is what makes triathlon unique and interesting. Sebastian Kienle has a killer bike leg. He uses that to get enough gap to hold the faster runners off. I have a fast run. I try to hold on as much as I can in the swim, bike as hard as I can then use my strength in the run to get me to the line before as many other people as I can.”
In his own words Berkel has had a ‘crappy start to the year’. Auckland, Geelong and Melbourne were all disappointing. “Melbourne was a big disappointment. Things didn’t go well. I took delivery of a new bike two weeks before Melbourne without a proper Retul fit. That came back to haunt me with both hamstrings tightening up during the race. I just took some rough measurements from my old bike. That didn’t work out too well in hindsight.”
After Melbourne Tim went straight over to the US and raced Texas 70.3 for second overall. He then went and had some R&R with Clayton Fettell including some skiing and going to see some big US sport.
“This year just has not been enjoyable. I went through a slump about a month ago and wasn’t enjoying training. I pulled out of it and now I am back to feeling great.”
Berkel was originally doing the Ironman here in Cairns but had a niggling injury and thought he wouldn’t be ready for it so moved to the 70.3. “After a solid training block I felt great and decided to move back in to the Ironman. I had a patch a few weeks ago which gave me the confidence to move back in to the Ironman. I did the big block of training for Melbourne so I still have plenty of distance in my legs. I am feeling good at the 4min/km pace and have finished off the last few weeks with some big Ironman training.”
After the 5150 last weekend Tim got some positives out of it and is feeling really good about Sunday with the full backing of his coach Grant Giles.
On the Ironman race this Sunday Berkel says ‘Clayton raced well at 5150. He is very fit and will be tough to beat. Cam Brown and Luke Mckenzie are the main threats to Clayto winning. McKenzie is looking slimmer than he has been for a long time’.
Next for up for Tim will be a trip to the USA in July to do Vineman yo.3 and Lake Placid Ironman. “I won’t do Las Vegas even though I have the points and my dream for racing Kona is off for this year. I will also do Metaman Bintan then some Australian races. I’ll defend my title at Mandurah 70.3 and do the Sunshine Coast 70.3 and some other races. I love racing in WA and love racing in Australia in general. It is my preference and when I am most relaxed and happy.” With the amount of races locally that could be more of Tim’s focus in the future.
Swimming is still the big area to improve for Berkel and this plays with him a bit. With no swimming background he has to work twice as hard as most of the other pros to keep in touch during races. “After Cairns I’ll go straight back to where I am living in Lennox Heads and will be focusing on my swim.”
“I am thankful for the great support I get from my sponsors. “I am testing some new chamois for Scody at the moment and working on some other ranges of clothing. Bernard took a chance on me when I didn’t have any results and was just starting out. They signed me up just before I won Ironman Western Australia. I suppose that worked out well for them.”
“I have had some great fun with sponsors Daikin Air Conditioning over the last couple of years. Since doing the Sydney Corporate Triathlon for them with Mitch Robins and Clayton Fettell I have also done Robbie’s Gran Fondo. The team from Daiken enjoy being involved with the sport of Triathlon and Cycling.”