Icon Smith will raise triathlon profile

As the annual Turtle Triathlon approaches expect to see more joggers, cyclists and swimmers than usual working out in preparation for the arduous event. The Cayman Islands Triathlon Association rounds off the season on 25 November with the Turtle Triathlon. The final build up race is on Sunday.

Competing in the Olympic distance of 1,500 metre swim, 40km bike and a 10km run will be guest professional Spencer Smith, the Brit based in Arizona.

Smith, 34, is semi-retired now but in the Nineties he was virtually unbeatable, winning the world junior title in 1992 and then the senior version in successive years. A winner of multiple titles, including the renowned Hawaii Ironman, so successful was he that he has won over half of all the races he has ever started, a phenomenal statistic. In fact, for three seasons from 1995 he won 14 out of 15 events he entered and came third in the other. So he was a legend before his 30th birthday.

However, it is not just Smith’s triathlon success that has made him an icon, it’s also his ability to bounce back from adversity and his positive, down-to-earth attitude, making him one of the most marketable men in the sport. Universally respected for his tough, hard-driving style in competition, away from the course his friendly manner and approachability makes him widely sought after.

One example of his teak toughness came when training for the 2005 season he suffered a horrific accident riding his bike that almost cost him his life. Hit by a car, he suffered third-degree burns from being trapped beneath the engine and broke bones in various places. Despite the injuries, which would have forced many lesser athletes to retire, he bounced back the following year, coming second in the Ironman Arizona and qualified for the Hawaii Ironman World Championships for the fifth time. Smith was also good enough to compete professionally on the cycling circuit, albeit for only one season.

He now concentrates on promoting his triathlon clothing range, developing junior triathlete programmes and generally raising the profile of triathlon which is now an Olympic event.

Polly Cox, Turtle Triathlon organizer, said: ‘Spencer has done so many things in the sport and done a lot of good for it too. This is a good way of bringing some publicity to triathlon in Cayman and showing that it is a credible, international sport that warrants recognition.

‘And more on a layman’s level, his visit allows people starting in triathlon or have been in it for a while, the opportunity talk to someone who’s been through the ranks. They’ll pick up some valuable tips and information that they might find either useful or interesting.

‘He will get an appearance fee and also be competing and will also run a couple of question and answer sessions and maybe a clinic. He’s very open to people and personable. It’s a great opportunity to have a chat with him and not be intimidated to do so. He’s going to be offering a lot of encouragement and support for his fellow triathletes on the course.

‘The build up has been good and we’re anticipating 250 for the actual race, including individuals and teams. I’m really encouraging people to get registered early. They can do it online or paper form, it just helps us administratively if people can do it ahead of time. There’s also an entry form drop box at Butterfield House, which is downtown and both Don Foster’s dive shops.’

* Information about the last build up race and registering for the Cayman Islands Turtle Triathlon are on www.turtletricayman.com.

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