When one stops and thinks about the most gutsy and determined Triathlon moments from the sports history, a number come to mind.
We think Sian Welch and Wendy Ingraham crawling across the finish line in the 1997 IRONMAN World Championship in a battle for fourth place. We think back to 2016 when Alistair Brownlee carried his brother, Jonny Brownlee over the finish line in dramatic World Series finale in Mexico.
However, there is one story that we believe matches the bravery and the heroics of other iconic moments in the sport of triathlon.
It wasn’t in a World Championship event or a Long Course Triathlon. But, it will go down as equally gutsy and determined.
It's the time (not so long ago) Angela Besnard from the Kiama Triathlon Club, left nothing in the tank. The time she left nothing out on the course, and completed the Full Club Distance at the 2021 Triathlon NSW Club Champs. The points she earnt were crucial in her club going on to be victorious in Division 3. That’s what the TNSW Club Champs is all about - strength in numbers, racing for your club. Unfortunately, it also resulted in Angela having a stay in hospital..
So, we felt the obvious place to start was to ask why she put her body through so much just to finish a triathlon?
“All I can tell you is that I have dropped out of a race before but never ever if it’s for a team! I’m just a team player. But especially when it’s for our lovely little club with all my friends counting on their little old lady!” she replies with a huge laugh.
Allow us to start at the beginning. The week before the 2021 TNSW club champs, Angela knew she wasn’t in the best form due to neck and shoulder pain - a couple of remedial massages later, and she arrived at Forster still in slight discomfort. She remained worried when she attended the first team dinner in Forster and had some pain transmitting down her arm, but come race day, she woke up feeling pretty good and ready to go. This confidence only increased when she completed the swim and the bike with nearly no medical concerns at all. But it was on the run when the issues start.
“The pain in my shoulder was horrible. But in all honesty, I never considered dropping out at all. Normally I am not one to put my body through anything too traumatic… after all …. It has served me well for 70 odd years and needs gratitude", she says.
"I don’t really remember that much about the run except my dear friend Cheryl Freeman (reigning Forager South Coast Triathlon League Joint MVP) running in support. I crossed the finish line and into the arms of my club mates, I knew my points would be invaluable to our club - and I knew I needed urgent medical attention!"
And she was right. In fact, the points she contributed to the Kiama Triathlon Club were the difference between first and second - pushing the Kiama Triathlon Club up to the top step of the podium, and taking home Division 3. But the price she paid was pretty big, by anyone’s standards.
Five days in the Taree hospital, two more unable to move at home and a disc having to be replaced (with a titanium one) in her back in a post event operation! It was the definition of ‘Putting everything on the line for victory!’. So what is so special about the Club Champs and the Kiama Triathlon Club that would make Angela push her body so far? The answer to that question is simple. It’s her love, passion and dedication to her club mates and the Kiama Triathlon Club!
"Our club is special because it is intimate and inclusive. Although it has it’s fair share of top athletes, everyone is considered important and we just like hanging out together," Angela tells us.
"And the TNSW Club Champs is the highlight of the year - the one time we all do the same race together, and party a little too. We support one another and celebrate everything that’s great about swim, bike and run!"
A lot has been written about the friendly but healthy rivalry between the Jervis Bay Dolphins and the Kiama Coasters, both of whom are powerhouses of the South Coast region and will once again battle it out in Division 3 of the 2022 Club Champs. In what can be seen as an ominous signs for other clubs in Division 3, Rod Rose (Jervis Bay TC President) was short and succinct when asked for comment.
"We have something to prove after coming so close last year. We intend to go one better this year. Nothing but the top step of the podium will do".
Interestingly, when asked about the rivalry Angela added, "I don’t really consider there to be any animosity it’s more friendly competition. Jervis Bay TC are a great club - they’ve had some wins and we’ve had some wins, so I would say it’s about equal at the moment. But honestly, our main competitor into the future will be the Shellharbour TC".
Their president laid down a gauntlet recently, indicating that club was going to start building on their already successful junior program and adding some age group athletes in, which should make them a fierce club to defeat into the future.
The South Coast MVP title is known as the ‘Besnard Medal’ in honour of the first ever winner of the Forager South Coast Triathlon League MVP - Angela Besnard.
She has forged herself a reputation and a name in the community as a strong, and determined competitor. And whilst she holds the points she earnt for the Kiama Triathlon Club at last year’s TNSW Club Champs as a huge highlight, it was her third place at the Duathlon World Triathlon Championships that is her greatest achievement. She trained incredibly hard and remains chuffed with her result.
The final question we felt compelled to ask is ‘Will she be racing in 2022’?
Her answer was short and sweet - a statement we are 100% confident to be true.
"Most definitely! I will get to the finish one way or another"
Want to find out what’s so special about the TNSW Club Champs? check out the wrap up video from 2021.