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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 19 November 2018

Reluctant triathlete Butterfield is men’s winner

If there can be such a paradox as the slacker triathlete, then we might have seen him win the 2014 Abu Dhabi Ironman Triathlon on Saturday.
Tyler Butterfield, centre, surprised himself by winning the elite male long course division. Bas Diederen, right, and Sylvain Sudrie, left, and were second and third, respectively, in the Abu Dhabi International Triathlon on March 15, 2014. Ravindranath K / The National
Tyler Butterfield, centre, surprised himself by winning the elite male long course division. Bas Diederen, right, and Sylvain Sudrie, left, and were second and third, respectively, in the Abu Dhabi International Triathlon on March 15, 2014. Ravindranath K / The National

ABU DHABI // If there can be such a paradox as the slacker triathlete, then we might have seen him win the 2014 Abu Dhabi Ironman Triathlon on Saturday.

Tyler Butterfield took a break from triathlons a while back to become a professional cyclist. He only resumed his triathlon career again in 2012, competing at the London Olympics and Saturday, when he secured what he called “the biggest win” of his career.

After coming home in 6:43:01, the Bermudan admitted he never expected to win here, mostly because he never wanted to be a professional triathlete.

In a sport that demands as much as any physically and mentally, to win while not wanting to be a professional athlete is some achievement.

“I didn’t expect to win at all,” he said. “Eight weeks ago I started the really hard training, and I was really motivated. But every time I am motivated it seems to not work out. I did two really hard weeks and I got sick. So I said let’s not put on any pressure.

“I never really set out to be a professional triathlete. I just raced and wanted to improve, and the next race I wanted to improve more.

“I wanted to improve on third last year, but I was a bit nervous this year with the field. It was a bit more select and I came here aiming for top five. If you are top five in this field, you have to be happy.”

In a different way to the joint-win by the Brownlee brothers in the short course, Butterfield’s win also kept a family tradition alive at Abu Dhabi. His wife, Nikki, was a long-course winner here in 2012. She is not competing at present, having given birth to a boy nine weeks ago.

“We have a little bit of family banter about that,” Butterfield said. “That keeps us motivated. She understands the sport. We just had a son nine weeks ago and she’s been really good. She knows I need to sleep and train to provide for the family and she’s a big part of the success.”

On a warm day, the women’s long course provided the event’s most compelling race.

Five times over the 223-kilometre course, the lead changed hands between Melissa Hauschildt and Yvonne van Vierken.

Hauschildt had to overcome severe cramping during the cycling stage and feared she might fall off the bike.

During the final 10km of the run, the pair were side by side until Hauschildt pulled out one final kick to come home 0.63 seconds ahead of van Vierken.

“At 10km, me and Yvonne running side by side, I got a little gap ahead and I thought if I can hold this I can win, but I never thought I had the win until I saw the banner,” Hauschildt said.

“This is one of my main races of the year and that’s why I dug so hard. I didn’t want to lose it – it would put me off for the whole season if I didn’t win it. I worked so hard for it and it might be the toughest race I’ve ever done.”

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