Turtle Tri shapes up for top pros

What started as a small event for a couple of local enthusiasts has steadily grown to become one of the most anticipated sporting events on the Cayman endurance sport calendar.

The Turtle Tri utilises Cayman’s beautiful beaches as a backdrop for a challenging yet accessible multi-sport event.

Central to the success of the event has been the hard work by a dedicated bunch of volunteers, under the watchful eye of race director Polly Cox as well as the continued sponsorship of Butterfield Bank.

In order to give the event some more international exposure and challenge local racers to perform at their best, the organisers brought former world champion Spencer Smith out in 2007.

Smith delivered a powerful lesson in how a triathlon is to be raced and won the race in a new record time of 1 hour 56 minutes and 54 seconds.

Next home was Marius Acker, Cayman’s top triathlete, followed by another local David Walker. They will line up again for the swim, cycle and run this year.

The event received an unexpected boost recently when it was announced that 2008 would see a couple of top international triathletes competing in the race, set to take place on November 23.

This time around, the gauntlet will be thrown down by male professional triathlete Felipe Bastos, as well as female pro Rebecca Preston.

Bastos, a Brazilian triathlete now based in the United States, has more than 30 career victories to his name, but it is Australian Preston who boasts the most impressive list of career titles.

In 2005 Preston won Ironman UK, a performance which would be enough for most. Yet in 2006 Preston followed that up with victory in Ironman Switzerland, followed a mere two weeks later by victory in Ironman Austria.

She defended her Ironman Switzerland title the following year, while claiming third in Ironman Austria.

With personal best times of 9 hours and 12 minutes for the Ironman and 2 hours 2 minutes for an Olympic distance triathlon, Preston is certain to be at the forefront on race day in Cayman.

The participation of these top athletes came about through the involvement of Canadian company Niklas Group.

The company’s involvement started in 2007 when company president Joel Goralski took up triathlon.

‘Actually I raced my first triathlon last year and competed in Grand Cayman,’ says Goralski.

‘It was a great experience and I was ready to go back the next year. I am also into cycling and just promoting an active healthy lifestyle.’

When the company decided to become the main sponsor for the Lake Chaparral Triathlon in Calgary, where the company is based, Goralski saw an opportunity to share his experience of Cayman with others.

‘I thought it would be a great idea to do something local where I could reward the top male and female of a Calgary Triathlon with a trip to Grand Cayman to compete on behalf of our company,’ he says. ‘The promotion went over very well and was a great success.’

The top amateur finishers in the male and female divisions of the triathlon took home the trip to Cayman.

‘The amateurs joining us are nothing to sneeze at either. Ben Adams, who came in first [at the Lake Chaparral Triathlon], took down Felipe who placed second and Kristina Schultz annihilated the female field and also bested our pro Rebecca Preston,’ says Goralski.

In fact, Adams who completed the Lake Chaparral race in 2:06:25 was Triathlon Canada’s 2004 Junior triathlete of the year, while Schultz who clocked in with a 2:14:33 won the 35-39 age group in the 2008 Triathlon World Championships.

‘We are really looking forward to it and it will be a challenge for past competitors to best our team,’ says Goralski.

Apart from the company president’s involvement in the sport, there are other reasons for Niklas Group’s involvement in triathlon.

The company specialises in developing high quality inner city communities, where the daily time savings over the long commute from the suburbs would appeal to those who lead an active lifestyle and still want to get a bit of training done before or after work.

‘Once you settle in a good inner-city community, there is no returning. I thought that by supporting a sport that I love through offering a prize to join me at my favourite triathlon would be a great way to get people thinking about Niklas and what we really represent.

‘Triathlon, to me, represents and ultimate lifestyle choice and our company, through the type of projects that we build, is all about enhancing lifestyle.

‘There is absolutely no possible way I could be in the shape that I am in, not to mention be able to compete at a high level if I was not living in Calgary’s vibrant inner city.’

Far from only focussing on the performances of his team members, Goralski has ambitions of his own.

‘Me, well I am trying to win my age group (40) and hope to finish under 2:15 to beat last year’s time of 2:23. Anyway, if anything, I think our contingent will only help boost the Turtle Tri and give it some more recognition.’

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