Triathlon’s next generation of stars were given an insight into the life of an Olympic Champion today, as Emma Frodeno (nee Snowsill) and Loretta Harrop inspired budding triathletes with their tales of triumph and defeat at the Olympic Games.
The 2017 Australian Schools Triathlon Festival (ASTF) played host to an Australian Olympic Committee ‘Meet with a Champ’ session, with the gold and silver medallists sharing their sporting careers with 400 of the nation’s best junior athletes.
The four-day festival, hosted by School Sport Australia and Triathlon Australia, incorporated two events; the School Sport Australia Triathlon Championships and the Australian Open Schools Triathlon, with athletes competing for an elusive national schools title.
Dual Olympian, Loretta Harrop said she was excited to be involved in the 2017 Australian Schools Triathlon and see what the next generation of athletes can offer.
“I didn't even do my first triathlon until I left school,” said the Athens 2004 silver medallist.
“I hope the kids take in the full event and stop to experience the feeling and honour of representing and being one of the best of Australia's triathlon youth.
“So for me I can't wait to see the pool of young talent that will race in Penrith.”
After sharing her Olympic journey, which included the highs of two Games and tragedy of losing her brother Luke after he was hit by a stolen car while on a training ride on the Gold Coast, Harrop said she hoped today’s session provided some beneficial advice for future Olympians.
“This will be a small stepping stone for a few to Olympic racing so I am looking forward to passing on any knowledge and advice I can offer about my two Olympic experiences.”
The ‘Meet with a Champ’ session included a one-hour discussion where Harrop and Frodeno shared experiences from how they became involved in their sport, the positive impact it’s had on their lives, and their journeys to Olympic Games.
For School Sport Australia Executive Officer Michael Grant, the education component was as important as the racing.
"We are very pleased and proud to partner with the AOC to provide the 'Meet with a Champ' session at the School Sport Australia Triathlon Championships as part of the education program,” said Grant.
“The education program is a key point of difference offered by SSA to other national events and the AOC's contribution is vital to the success of our Championships."
Beijing 2008 gold medallist Emma Frodeno’s advice to competitors was to remember that they are still just doing a triathlon.
“As much as there is a bigger ‘title’ and more competition you’re up against, you have to remind yourself that you know what to do,” said Frodeno.
“Swim, bike, run! Keep it simple and keep the nerves at bay by thinking about ‘what you can do’. You can’t control what anyone does once the gun goes.”
The location of today’s event, the Sydney International Regatta Centre, brought back fond memories for Frodeno who claimed the gold medal on the same course at Australia’s first Olympic Youth Festival in 2001.
“Even in the post race interview I was bewildered that I had won! Though I remember loving that race and being excited to race other athletes from around Australia.
Frodeno, who married fellow Beijing gold medallist Jan Frodeno, said meeting Olympians was crucial to her junior sporting career when she was a similar age to this week’s participants.
“Meeting Olympians when I was younger really made me realise how I could make my dreams competing for my country more of a reality.
“It didn’t just seem like they were someone on TV, something unattainable. I love being able to encourage kids to follow this path as well.
“I hope to convey to them that anything they love and put their mind to is possible.”
Competition at the 2017 Australian Schools Triathlon Festival kicks off tomorrow morning with the National Championships for athletes selected into their respective state teams, followed by the Open Schools Triathlon in the afternoon for any students wishing to represent their school.
Meet with a Champ is just one part of the a.s.p.i.r.e. school network, the AOC’s education program, which uses the Olympic sport traditions and values to teach life values and skills.