x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Money and medals less important to the triathlete iron man Alexander

The two-time champion says spending time with his family and challenging himself are the primary motivating factors in his life.

Craig Alexander celebrates after winning the Ironman World Championship triathlon for the second time in a row in 2009. Hugh Gentry / Reuters
Craig Alexander celebrates after winning the Ironman World Championship triathlon for the second time in a row in 2009. Hugh Gentry / Reuters

Craig Alexander has won two Ironman Triathlon World Championships, in 2008 and 2009, and he is only the fourth man to win two years in a row.

Those honours, the glittering medallions and the financial rewards that comes with them are, however, not an incentive for the Australian. Instead, it is the opportunity to challenge himself in a sport that stretches the limits of physical endurance.

"I am really not racing for the glory or the money," Alexander, 37, said. "I am racing for personal satisfaction. I am trying to improve and trying to fulfil my potential. And also, I am racing for my family.

"That keeps me motivated. It's not hard to push yourself. In fact that's why I enjoy this sport, that challenge in every single race.

"You are going to come to the point where you either push yourself and breakthrough and win, or you succumb to the pain and self-doubts, and you don't win. That's the challenge you face every single time. It doesn't matter how many times you win a world title, you are always trying to improve. You are always trying to get better than what you were. That's what is motivating. I am very obsessed with trying to improve every year."

Given his need to challenge himself, Alexander is excited about his appearance at the Abu Dhabi International Triathlon on March 13 when he will get the opportunity to test himself against a field that includes Chris McCormack, the reigning Ironman World Champion.

"I've been considering this race for some time, as the mix of international allure, the opportunity to speed around a Formula One racetrack [on my bike at Yas Marina Circuit], a very generous prize purse and a unique long-course format makes this event particularly appealing," he said.

"It's only their second year, but it's a prestigious event. In one year the event got worldwide recognition last year. "

Alexander has been training earnestly in Australia for the event, which will be his first of the season. He recently moved homes and that "impacted a little bit" on his training regime.

"But on the whole I think it was pretty painless," he said. "My training has been going very good and I am looking forward to coming over and testing myself. To sum it up, I am in pretty good shape."

Aside from his training for Abu Dhabi, Alexander has been trying to enjoy his time with his children, daughter Lucy and son Austin. The Australian prefers to spend his free time with them and admits they are the determining factor in his life.

"Lucy is in her second year of school," he said. "Our son is still pretty young for school. He is not even two yet. Obviously, with our daughter's school, that impacts on most of your decisions. My wife and I plan things together, and the main determining factor is always how things are going to impact the family.

"Going forward, obviously it's going to be the main determining factor in how my season is scheduled and ultimately how long I race for.

"Obviously, this is my job at the moment but I don't want it to impact upon my family's life, particularly my daughter's schooling."

To spend time around his family, Alexander has given up on his other interests, which included playing the guitar and surfing.

"I haven't played the guitar in a long time," he said. "I haven't surfed in a long time. I do get out for the occasional game of golf, but triathlon is such a time-consuming endeavour, just the training and the travel. When I am home, I prefer to be with the family rather than disappear off and surf. And it's not a sacrifice. That's my choice.

"I would prefer to be with my children when they are little and enjoy the time. I can surf later when they grow up and don't want to know me. I know my guitar will still be there. I'll have to dust it off one day."

Alexander, however, does like to follow his favourite sports on the television, including the ongoing cricket World Cup.

"I love all sports," he said. "I grew up playing soccer. I played football for 13 years, so I love watching the English Premier League. I am watching a bit of the cricket World Cup at the moment. Spending so much time in the US, I have really grown to love the NFL. So I love watching that. Usually I am home in Australia during the NFL season, but I still try and watch it."

 

arizvi@thenational.ae