By Paul Groves on 13/01/17 at 1:44 pm
Much has been written and said about the finish of the Brothers Brownlee in Cozumel. The gesture of one brother helping the other captured the world’s media in such a way that for a few days, our sport was topping the world’s headlines.
Earlier in the year, in fact in January 2016, in the biting cold of Otepää, we saw another gesture that captivated. Our oldest competitor, Reinhold Wolter from Germany, racing in the 80-84 category had arrived with the plan of hiring a mountain bike for the race but found, to his dismay, that none of them were really up to the standard required for the European Championships. During the briefing, a solution was found. Multiple World and European Champion, Pavel Andreev from Russia made the decision to lend Wolter his bike as soon as he had finished.
Triathlon is a sport that attracts athletes who respect each other and who help each other. The same can be said of the coaches, technical officials and federations. We often refer to the ETU and ITU Family and as we enter 2017 we hear more news that really is “feel good” news.
Tucked away on the far western coast of Africa is the town of Dakhla. This was the venue for the 2016 Dakhla ATU Sprint Triathlon African Cup.
The race attracted a good mix of nationalities and with an airport just outside the town, what could possibly go wrong …
Well, the worst case scenario of lost luggage was exactly what happened and Slovenian athlete Nik Kojc along with a number of others, were facing the prospect of being frustrated spectators. Luck turned and the night before the race, the luggage arrived but for Nik, when he opened the bike case, it was the worst of worst case scenarios. Smashed into pieces his bike was ruined. It was impossible to rent or buy a new one and so for him, moving up now from the Junior ranks to the Elite, his chance to get points and build for the future looked as if it had been lost.
In stepped Donald Hillebregt NED. He was accompanied by his Dad who had brought a second bike. Without hesitation he offered this to Kojc. The race was on.
Let’s hear from Donald, “For this race in Dakhla my Dad travelled with me and he had my spare bike with him. This way he was able to train with me on the bike and so on, at least that was our original plan. Unfortunately (because our connection flight had a delay) our luggage missed the flight to Dakhla. So instead of 2 bikes, we had none... We were not the only ones, approximately nine other athletes had the same problem; one of them being Nik. With the African motto of "relax, everything will be all right", the organisation told us that the bikes would arrive the day before the race… we were not that sure though.
Anyway, our bikes did eventually show up the night before the race, but Nik had less luck. During breakfast Nik came to me with his coach asking whether he could race on my spare bike. In the thought of good sportsmanship, of course I was willing to lend him my bike. As it was only a couple of hours before the race, I quickly give my room key to Nik, so he could get my spare bike and my Dad helped him wherever he could. During the race you do everything to beat the other athletes, but before and after I think it is just good sportsmanship to help each other, especially in circumstances beyond one's control like in this case.”
The race started and it was Nik who together with fellow Slovenian athlete, Domen Dornik, led the athletes out of the water and up to T1.
A good ride took him back to T2 but then he had to watch as the other stronger runners took off. His first big race was one that delivered him a 13th place and points! Donald, whose run power was stronger, edged ahead to take tenth.
A wonderful example of sportsmanship. As Donald says, “before and after it is just good sportsmanship to help each other”. 2016 ended on a high note and with this sort of spirit amongst our athletes, 2017 promises to be one to enjoy.
|1.||Uxio Abuin Ares||ESP||00:59:31|
|6.||João Francisco Ferreira||POR||00:59:54|
Find more details about this event - 2016 Dakhla ATU Sprint Triathlon African Cup