My first games experience, its been a roller coaster ride afterwards… But here are a few words of reflection, on what was definitely one of the most incredible experiences of my life. Let’s dive straight into the biggest race of my career, yet…
Having some studying commitments to still adhere to, I couldn’t travel from the motherland with the rest of the team on the 25th of March. I only got to the Gold Coast two days before the spectacular Opening Ceremony, and a mere four days before the day of the race
Australia, and the Gold Coast in particular, were an absolute treat. The people, the facilities and the scenery are second to none. The first few days in the village were quite an adjustment. Figuring out the travel schedule alone was a challenge, whilst trying to work out where the dining hall and training facilities were. The village itself was immense, it covered 29 hectares, was to host 6000 athletes along with their coaches, media and other important members of our teams. There were 71 competing countries, along with hosts Australia and England. The residential premises was divided into residential villages, called Rainforest, Reef, Outback, Surf, Beach and Sunset. The Namibians stayed together in Rainforest, along with those from Seychelles and Mozambique. We had our own little barista coffee shop, which served coffee all day. The apartments were great, there were five of us in each, with a small kitchen, tv, whilst nicely decorated with a Commonwealth themed interior.
A unique feature of the games was the koala bear mascot named Borobi. Borobi’s merchandise was sold everywhere and these mascots were present all over the host city to spread the excitement. The story behind Borobi, is that’s he’s missing his second thumb, the one that koalas use to climb trees. Because he couldn’t climb trees like other koalas, Borobi spent his time watching surfers ride waves, and dreaming to surf one day. As the marvel goes, one morning, he finally realised his dream, and stood upright on the surf board. The time under the sun made his crimson nose glow even brighter, and hence it’s bright red colour.
Back at the village, there was an international food hall that could probably seat around 3000 people, and offered almost every type of food you can think of. The food hall was open 24 hours a day, and my biggest challenge was to avoid midnight snack temptations, especially the night before to race day. Other facilities included recovery areas (saunas, massages and ice-baths), and a world class gymnasium. A poly-clinic on the premises could treat all sorts of emergencies and injuries, from minor incidents to pregnancies. Doping control and blood testing was also a regular procedure, and part of our daily lives.
Despite being around a third in magnitude of an Olympic Games, the Commonwealth Games is said to have generated around $2 Billion dollars for the local economy.
The race for me had a bunch of mixed feelings. Going in, I said I would be happy with a top 20 result, however coming away with a 15th place overall, I couldn’t help but ask myself what if I had a 4 second better swim, or better positioning around the buoys. This could’ve changed my race completely, and I feel a top 10 might have been a realistic goal. I literally came out the water on the tail end of the 2nd pack, within touching distance of other podium contenders, such as Richard Murray and Jake Birthwistle.
As I arrived at T1, I said to myself: “Great, you’ve got this one, nailed it!” It was raining heavily throughout, and the wind blew of my bike helmet from where it was racked. Complying with safety regulations, one of the officials clipped it to my handle bar. This might seem quite insignificant, but when you come running into T1 with a heart rate of 180, and having gone through the transition procedure about a hundred times in my mind, this threw me a little. International Triathlon racing is all about the marginal gains, literally milliseconds, especially if you’re not a front pack swimmer like myself.
Speaking to the ladies winner Flora Duffy’s husband prior to the race, Dan Hugo told me to make sure to get to that pack half way on the bike leg, otherwise I would be completed isolated when turning back into the wind. As we exited transition, I was around 8 seconds off the leading pack, and that is all would think of. I pedalled as hard as I could, averaging 468 W for the first 3 km. When I turned at the bottom of the course, I still hadn’t closed the 8 second gap, and I just knew this wasn’t coming. The second pack was chasing hard, in pursuit of Henri Schoeman and the Brownlee brothers, I found myself trying to ride them down, solo, against 20 other international triathletes.
The rest of the field was quite far behind, so I knew I couldn’t wait for their assistance, and it was tuck and roll as best as I could. I pushed hard for the whole 20km, picking up whoever got dropped from the pack, keeping those who would assist, and dropping those who wouldn’t. I came into T2 about 20 seconds off the 2nd pack and 35 behind the first. While this gap might sound close, at this level, it’s chasm not easily crossed. International ITU Triathletes can run between 14:30-15:45 over 5 km, so if you’re not in that pack, you won’t catch them. Well, unless you are Jake Birthwistle, of course. I still managed to overtake 3 guys in the run, and fought up till the very end. I am very happy with my achievement, but promised myself, that in future Commonwealth and Olympic Games events, I would need to deliver a perfect performance in every respect, in order to contend with the world’s best.
After the race, we got to see a little more of what Australia has to offer, spending a few days in Brisbane and Sydney. It was awesome visiting the world famous Bondi beach, the spectacular Sydney Harbour and Opera House. I even managed to get my own personal encounter with a little koala. This rounded off an awesome trip, and has made my year!
I was fortunate enough to share this whole trip with my Mom, my number one supporter. She travelled as my team manager, and did an amazing job. She meticulously took care of all my tasks, no matter how mundane, as required to have me at the start line line of such a major event. She has been my biggest supporter and motivator for the last ten years. She always believed in me, and motivated me when I wasn’t feeling myself. I’ve been out shopping for a little souvenir, as a small thank-you for all her commitment.
Since Gold Coast 2018, it’s been a roller coaster ride with studies, and then and exams looming around the corner. My fitness training is back in full swing, and I’m looking forward to a few events in Europe over the June holidays. I’m looking forward to competing with a clear mindset, and am ready to learn new things from new people, as I search to be the best I could possibly be.
I’ll end with this final thought: “If I do my best and be the best version of myself as I can possibly be, I’ll be 100 % satisfied. The results are secondary.”
The formula is simple, and as my running coach always says, you need to be consistent, day in and day out. Another brick in the wall, and we keep building until Tokyo 2020. It sounds easy, but nothing in life ever is… That’s it for now…
JP out ✌️