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2000 Sydney Olympics: Simon Whitfield

Alex Baumann was best, stalwart Sylvie Frechette showed grace and Donovan Bailey left his rivals in the dust. From 1984 to 2000, CBC Radio and Television followed Canadian athletes chasing Olympic gold. They were the fastest and the strongest and they had Canadians from coast to coast smiling a little wider and cheering a little louder.

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This profile of plucky Simon Whitfield airs before the men's triathlon is run in Sydney. At the time of its broadcast, Whitfield is by no means expected to bring home the gold. The slight athlete is all smiles in this interview. "We'll see in Sydney," he says optimistically. "I think anything can happen." Whitfield's race begins unspectacularly. After the 1.5-kilometre swim in Sydney Harbour, he is in 28th place.

In the 40-kilometre bike ride through Sydney's downtown core, Whitfield begins to make up time but is almost knocked out when a series of riders crash on the course. He finishes the bike race in 25th place. With 200 metres left in the 10-kilometre run, Whitfield breaks from the pack and races to the finish. "I've dreamed of this my entire life, I've dreamed about winning a gold medal. It happened today, and I can't tell you how proud I am to be a Canadian."
• Whitfield picked up his competition body suit the night before the triathlon. After he finished the swimming portion of the race, he found that the suit had shrunk and was very uncomfortable. During the last phase of the race, Whitfield unzipped the front and ran the remainder of the race bare-chested.
• Of his dual Canadian-Australian citizenship, Whitfield told Sports Illustrated, "I'm deeply proud of being Canadian, but I believe that much of my competitive nature comes from being part Australian."

• The triathlon was run as an official Olympic event for the first time in Sydney. It incorporates three gruelling sports – swimming, running and biking – into one event. Athlete endurance is pivotal as no breaks are taken between legs.
• At age 12, Whitfield, whose nickname is Happy, ran his first triathlon and was hooked on the sport. "I quickly became a little triathlon groupie, knowing all the stats," he told the Canadian Press. "If I could have traded triathlon trading cards, I probably would have done that."

• Whitfield continues to train in Victoria, B.C. and will represent Canada again in the triathlon event at the Athens Olympics. While he hasn't announced any plans for retirement, Whitfield mused about his eventual retirement. "I want to open an ecotourism lodge actually, in the interior of B.C.," he told the Canadian Press. "Live in the interior near a lake. No BMW. No cell phone. Just an old rusty pickup and one of those rotary phones. That's it."
Medium: Television
Program: CBC Sports
Broadcast Date: Sept. 17, 2000
Guest(s): Simon Whitfield
Narrator: Mark Lee
Duration: 2:19

Last updated: July 16, 2012

Page consulted on September 10, 2014

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