Don’t go too hard on the swim – there’s still a lot of the race left afterwards.
The secret to triathlon success from one of the best in the world.
The words of wisdom came courtesy of newly-crowned Tasmanian athlete of the year Jake Birtwhistle when accepting his award this week.
Master of ceremonies Jo Palmer congratulated him and asked all the necessary questions required of such an occasion before seizing the opportunity to gain some motherly kudos.
Jo said her nine-year-old son was taking part in his first triathlon in the state primary school challenge at Devonport the following morning so what advice could the world No.3 and dual Commonwealth Games medallist offer.
With a maturity well beyond his 23 years, Birtwhistle offered the aforementioned tip, confessed to getting a bit sunburned at the Bluff for the same day’s high school event, thanked watching mum and dad Carmen and Alan for the countless 5am taxis to training and then offered the sort of advice to warm any parent’s heart.
“It’s just great to see Tasmanian kids enjoying the sport that has taken me so far,” he said. “I just tell them to have fun and if it’s something they want to pursue there is plenty of time for them.”
The moment was among the highlights of the annual gathering of some of the best exponents of their art in the world.
But as well as Jo, there was a roomful of past and present sportsmen and women who appear hell-bent on testing the unofficial Tasmanian Institute of Sport ban on using the cliche “punching above our weight”.
From the gathering of Tasmanian sporting hall of fame members to the nominees for this year’s top award, they demonstrated champion characteristics in every meaning of the word.
The calibre of the seven nominees would suggest the highest standard ever seen in the sports award.
Birtwhistle was one of six Commonwealth Games champions. Tasmania had never previously won more than three golds at a single Games.
But – like last year’s joint winner Sarah Hawe – it was Birtwhistle’s achievements at the highest level that put him above his fellow Gold Coast gold medallists.
While Hawe was in the women’s four crew which has won gold and silver medals at consecutive rowing world titles, the former under-23 world champion became just the second Australian to achieve a podium finish in the World Triathlon Series.
In contrast, the likes of swimmer Ariarne Titmus and lawn bowler Rebecca Van Asch had no world championship to compete in during 2018 while hockey’s ongoing World Cup tournament began outside the period of eligibility.
With previous winners including world champs in such diverse arenas as track cycling, rowing, lawn bowls, boxing and sailing – it does imply a level of above-weight punching that would even keep Tyson Fury on the canvas.
Glancing around the venue – between lesser mortals like journalists and politicians – could be seen world beaters of an earlier vintage, many sharing membership of the state’s hugely-credentialed sporting hall of fame.
Speaking on their behalf, Graeme Gilmore, who was the planet’s best six-day rider in the mid-’70s, talked warmly of the pride and humility that comes with scaling a sporting summit from Tasmanian foothills.
The hall of fame’s two new inductees delivered a similar message – with a sprinkle of humour thrown in.
In a year when he was also made an icon of Tasmanian footy, Michael Roach gave an informative geography lesson about “the Westbury suburb” of Cluan which also produced Olympic basketballer Adam Gibson, adding, in typical Tasmanian fashion, “He’s my second cousin.”
And when Jo asked Donna MacFarlane where she found the energy to run post-motherhood with the aside: “I’m a mother and I’ve been exhausted for 21 years”, the Olympic steeplechaser replied: “I just wanted to get out of the house and run away for a while.”