Edmonton, Canada (31 August 2014) - As a part of its 25th year anniversary celebrations, the International Triathlon Union (ITU) today inducted seven individuals into its inaugural Hall of Fame on the penultimate evening of the 2014 TransCanada Corp. Grand Final Edmonton.
Two of Australia’s greatest triathletes, Greg Welch and Emma Carney today received the sport’s highest accolade when they were named among the first inductees onto the ITU Triathlon Hall of Fame at a glittering ceremonial dinner in Edmonton.
Welch, who turned 50 this year, first represented Australia at the inaugural ITU World Championships in Avignon in 1989 and along with Brad Bevan and Miles Stewart led and Australian onslaught to put the sport on the map at home and internationally.
The Campsie-born Welch, who grew up in Cronulla went on to win the ITU World Championship the following year in 1990 – kick starting an extraordinary decade of dominance that finished with his retirement in 1999.
He was crowned World Cup Series winner in 1991, World Duathlon champion in 1993 and World Long Course Distance champion in 1996 – two years after winning the Hawaiian Ironman – a race he loved and contested an amazing 10 times.
Carney’s ITU career saw her win two ITU world championships in 1994 and 1997, silver in 1996, 19 World Cup wins and a three-time ITU World Cup Series winner in 1995, 1996 and 1997.
Welch and Carney were among 10 Australians, Miles Stewart, Brad Beven, Peter Robertson, Chris McCormack, Michellie Jones, Loretta Harrop, Jackie Fairweather and Emma Snowsill who were among a who’s who of 22 athletes shortlisted for the Hall of Fame.
The two Australians were among seven inductees with inaugural ITU World Champions Mark Allen (USA) and Erin Baker (New Zealand) leading the “triathlon royalty” with fellow athletes Karen Smyers (USA) and Simon Lessing (Great Britain) as the athletes.
They were joined by the founding father of the sport, Canada’s Les McDonald, the inaugural ITU president who drove the sport from 1989 with the first ever ITU world championships in Avignon, to its Olympic debut in Sydney 2000 to his retirement in 2008.
McDonald was awarded a lifetime achievement award in the Hall of Fame and follows his induction into the Canadian Olympic Committee Hall of Fame in 2007.
Welch said he was: “Over the moon” to be the first Australian man inducted into the Hall of Fame.
“It is fantastic to be inducted after 25 years of our wonderful sport, it’s a young sport but to be recognised as Triathlon Royalty moving forward is very special,” said Welch.
“Having two Australians Emma and I up tonight just goes to show the dominance that we had over the Olympic Distance. Two people on the same day in the very first one.”
Welch still has vivid memories of the very first World Championships.
“I remember as if it was yesterday, August 6, 1989. Taking photos on the carousel in the middle of the walled city, the Palace of Popes,” said Welch.
“Triathlon has been a blessing for me. From Avignon, right through to Edmonton this weekend, I’ve rarely missed a world championships; I’m in love with my own sport and I guess this is just a reward for a long and very good career.
“I guess I look back over those early years, and laugh at the way we used to run around in our Speedos, half naked, the shoes we used to wear, the bikes we used to ride, the handle bars, the helmets we wore, the way the sport has evolved since those days is amazing.
“I really enjoyed competing against Brad Bevan, he always brought out the best in me in the F1 Series in Australia that was before its time.
“I loved to race him and Miles (Stewart) and Macca (Chris McCormack). It was a lot of fun.”
Welch nominated his Ironman World Championship and the Olympic Distance World championship in Orlando as his two favourite races, with his four world championships the icing on the cake after matching with the fast Mexicans that he says “brought out the best in me.”
However, he like Carney, was diagnosed with ‘Ventricular Tachycardia’, and underwent nine open-heart surgeries from 2001 until 2003, and lived on to tell the tale and thrive.
Carney began her sporting life as a runner, and at 13 she set a Victorian record in her 3,000m debut. At 18, she was winning national school titles and wanted to go to the Olympics. She reached the finals in the Australian U-20 national championships in the 1,500m and 3,000m.
She tried her first triathlon in 1993, which she won after overcoming a 7-minute deficit from a 700 metre swim.
By November 1994, she had won the ITU World Championships title in her first international triathlon, and by a record margin of 2 minutes 12 seconds.
Then from June 1995 to April 1997, Carney recorded an unbroken string of 12 straight ITU World Cup wins. After a narrow loss to Michellie Jones at the 1997 Monaco World Cup, she recorded another seven World Cup victories and adding another ITU World Champion title.
Carney was forced to fully retire from professional triathlon in 2004 with her heart problems after her cardiac arrest in Edmonton – where she will be inducted 10 years later.
She later speculated, “I always raced so hard that maybe it contributed to damaging my heart. Having said that, I probably was unable to approach it differently. That was just the way I was wired - all or nothing”
Of her induction Carney said: “It’s nice because when you are racing it’s all about trying to win races and things that you can control but awards like this are very special, it’s the sport saying thanks, a sport that is a great family to be involved in,” said Carney.
“It is very humbling with the people who I am being inducted with and I gather they have chosen athletes who competed before the Olympics so it’s a nice choice and I’ve very honoured.
“Michellie Jones has already congratulated me and I’m sure she will be in next year.
“Australia has made a big step in developing the sport. We showed the world how to race triathlon.”
Her highlight was her last World Championship win in Perth in front of a huge home crowd.
“I had to prove myself that day and pretty much cemented myself as the world’s number one that year,” said Carney.
"It is a great privilege to induct these nominees into the first Hall of Fame," said ITU President and IOC Member Marisol Casado. "They set a standard of excellence from the very beginning that was crucial to the development of both triathlon and ITU. Without them, we would not enjoy the global level of exposure and Olympic standard of competition that we have today."
Following a day of elite racing in which two World Champions were named, the below were inducted into the Hall of Fame:
Erin Baker (NZL) - ITU World Champion (1989), 3 x ITU World Cup wins
Karen Smyers (USA) - 2 x ITU World Champion (1990, 1995), ITU Long Distance World Champion (1996), 7 ITU World Cup wins, ITU World Cup Series winner (1991)
Emma Carney (AUS) -2 x ITU World Champion (1994, 1997), 19 ITU World Cup wins, 3 x ITU World Cup Series winner (1995, 1996, 1997)
Mark Allen (USA) - First ITU World Champion, Multiple ITU Long Distance and World Cup winner
Simon Lessing (GBR) - 4 x ITU World Champion (1992, 1995, 1996, 1998), Long-Distance Triathlon World Champion (1995), 7 x ITU World Cup wins, Olympian
Greg Welch (AUS) -ITU World Champion (1990). ITU World Cup Series winner (1991), ITU Duathlon World Champion (1993), ITU World Long Distance Champion (1996)
Les McDonald (CAN) - ITU President (1989-2008), Triathlon Canada President (1984-1996),
Largely credited with adding triathlon to the Olympic Games.
The inductees were narrowed down from a shortlist of 25 individuals in the categories of elite female and male athlete accomplishments, as well as lifetime achievements. Those nominated for the men's and women's categories were selected based on the criteria that each has a championship title in one or more ITU World Championships, Olympic Games, Paralympic Games, World Cup Series, and/or ITU World Rankings.
Lifetime Achievement Nominees were selected based on their extraordinary, long-term contributions off the field of play or through an exceptional contribution to ITU and the sport of triathlon.