Four time Australian Champion Craig Walton has announced he will make a return to the sport after a three year retirement. The Tasmanian, who is regarded by many as the best non drafting triathlete to ever grace the sport, will return to racing in pursuit of a record seventh Noosa Triathlon title next month.
Walton, who now lives on the Gold Coast, is the only man to have won the Noosa event six times, and is now eight weeks into his comeback for the event. Walton said, “I love Noosa, the fans and the course, it suits me, and I can’t wait.”
But the Tasmanian admits there will be some who will knock and question his decision to return to racing after such a lengthy absence, but he is relishing the challenge ahead. “I know it’s going to be tough, every race is, but I have worked and will continue to train hard,” Walton said. He added “I want to test myself and race against the best, that’s the only way to do it, so I can’t wait to get to Noosa and see how I go, bring it on”.
Although at this stage the Sydney Olympian is not looking any further ahead than the Noosa Triathlon on October 31, he says he is confident he can perform well on a course he has dominated, setting a world record which still stands today (1:44:13) set in 1997.
Added incentive for Walton will be the fact that good friend and fellow triathlon star Courtney Atkinson is closing in on one of the Tasmanian’s milestones at Noosa. “Courtney is chasing his third win in a row there, and seeing I am the only man to have achieved that so far, I would like to keep it that way, so I will be doing my best to stop him.”
Before retiring, Walton was regarded as one the best triathletes on the world stage, thanks largely to his explosive swimming and bike leg combinations, which saw him regularly break the back of the sport’s biggest names.
He made the podium 12 times in World Cup events, winning six times. Walton remains one of only six men to win at least one world cup title in four consecutive years.
During Walton’s layoff from racing he stayed heavily involved in the sport, assuming a coaching role for some of triathlon’s greatest athletes, and achieved amazing success in a short period of time.
Walton guided Emma Snowsill to three World Championship victories, a Commonwealth Games Gold Medal and an Olympic Games Gold Medal. The former Olympian also guided Emma Moffatt to her 2009 World championship victory.
The accolades flowed for the Tasmanian, he was crowned the 2008 Australian Triathlon Coach Of the year, and to top it off, he received one of the highest coaching awards, when he was crowned 2009 Australian Institute of Sport Coach of the Year.
Walton said, “This was certainly a great time in my life and was a great experience for me, but I feel that I have more to offer the triathlon World from a racing perspective.”