November 19, 2023
Australian triathlon legend Chris McCormack, affectionately known as ‘Macca,’ has etched his name into the annals of triathlon history, earning a well-deserved place in the AusTriathlon Hall of Fame.
The four-time World Champion joined a prestigious lineup of triathlon greats on Sunday night as he is officially inducted as the 18th member of the Hall of Fame at the AusTriathlon Awards on the Gold Coast.
His name now stands alongside icons like Greg Welch OAM and Michellie Jones AM, two legends he says brought him into the sport in the first place.
“It’s a great honour to be inducted into the AusTriathlon Hall of Fame.” McCormack said.
“To join some amazing inductees, people that brought me to the sport in the first place, Greg Welsh and Michellie Jones are two names that come to mind, is a true honour.
“I never started the sport of triathlon with the ambition of ever entering a Hall of Fame I just got into the sport because I loved swimming biking and running and competing. Now we sit here 30 years on.
“I’m very proud to be part of such an amazing group of athletes that have done amazing things within the sport and established this sport within our country.”
McCormack’s career boasts a remarkable list of achievements, including four-time World Championship titles encompassing two IRONMAN World Championships, an ITU World Championship, and an ITU Long Distance World Championship.
McCormack said it was Welsh that talked him into taking up the sport in 1991.
“He grew up in my suburb and sort of dragged me to the sport. It was a sport I knew nothing about in the early 90s, but I was instantly addicted to it.” McCormack said.
“I did a run one day with Greg, and we had to swim after it and he realised I could swim okay.
“At the same time, the great Miles Stewart won the World Championships on the Gold Coast that year. So it was a really pivotal time in my life.
“I was 18 years of age, I was at college, and I saw the opportunity to do this sport present itself. The sport has evolved so much since then. With the Sydney Olympics on the horizon in the mid-90s and triathlon becoming a medal sport in the first event of those Olympics, it really gave me motivation to pursue a life in this sport.
“My father was not too excited about that decision. I was a banker; I was working at Bankers Trust. I quit my job to pursue a life as a professional triathlete and I never looked back.”
Described by his peers as a fascinating, fearless and formidable figure in the triathlon circuit for two decades, he is undeniably one of Australia’s most accomplished professional triathletes.
Never have the embodiment of these qualities shone as brightly as they did in 2010, when McCormack claimed his self-proclaimed ‘masterpiece’ – his second IRONMAN World Championship in Kona.
Upon entering T2 with a commanding nine-minute lead over reigning champion, and now fellow Hall of Famer, Craig Alexander OAM, McCormack primary concern shifted to the looming presence of the emerging German star, Andreas Raelert, trailing by a mere two minutes.
Raelert caught up with McCormack in the final 5km of the run. And after enduring over seven hours and covering 221km in the race, it all boiled down to a 5,000m duel between the veteran and the German newcomer, four years his junior.
In one of the sport’s most iconic moments McCormack turned to Raelert and said, “Andreas, best of luck. No matter what happens here, you’re a champion. May the best man win.”
McCormack would prove to be the champion, crossing the line in 8:10:37 to win the greatest IRONMAN World Championship race of the 21st century.
Yet, his fame extends beyond his achievements in Kona.
In 1997, he made history by clinching the ITU World Cup Series and World Championships title, a feat that established him as the first male triathlete to achieve the double, earning him the prestigious rank of number one in the world for over two-year.
McCormack says his World Championship win that year stands out as his most enduring World Title triumph.
“1997 was probably the most memorable event for me, probably because I raced at home.” McCormack said.
“I was world number one going into that World Championships and I’d left home two years prior. I came home and my parents had the opportunity to watch me compete. It was a coming of age.
“I crossed the finish line, and my mum and dad were there. I remember saying to my dad, “dad, this is what I do, this is my sport.” That was for me incredible for him to acknowledge that and hug me and say, “son, go for it.””
McCormack’s dominance continued in the United States, where he remained undefeated for three years and 33 consecutive races. He excelled in short course triathlon racing, earning several accolades, including the US Triple Crown.
In 2001, he was named Global Triathlete of the Year and Competitor of the Year, holding both the USA Professional Championship Title and the USA Sprint Course Title in a single season—a unique feat in the sport.
He represented Australia at the Commonwealth Games in Manchester in 2002, finishing 5th, before shifting his focus to IRONMAN racing, making a remarkable debut at IRONMAN Australia in 2002, clinching the title in his first attempt. He didn’t stop there, defending his title in 2003, 2004, 2005, and 2006, setting a new standard for consecutive wins.
The pinnacle of McCormack’s IRONMAN career came at the prestigious IRONMAN World Championships in Hawaii.
While he faced setbacks in his initial attempts, including a non-finish in 2002 and a 59th-place finish in 2003, he persevered. In 2005, he displayed his resilience by finishing 6th with the fastest run split of the day.
The following year, in 2006, he secured the runner-up.
McCormack’s crowning achievement came in 2007 when he became the IRONMAN World Champion. Enduring scorching temperatures and immense competition, he triumphed ahead of Craig Alexander.
Even in the later stages of his IRONMAN career, McCormack continued to showcase his prowess. He secured his second World Championship in the greatest IRONMAN World Championship race of the 21st century in 2010.
“Everyone talks about my IRONMAN victories. Because I had so many failures in Kona, the victories seemed to be sweeter.” McCormack said.
“If you had me pick my best IRONMAN of all time, it would be 2010, winning my second title in Kona.
“I was old and at the end of my game. I knew I had one more big event in me and for me that was the perfect IRONMAN race.”
In 2012, at age 39, McCormack took on the ITU Long Distance Triathlon World Championships, a title previously won by only one other Australian male, Greg Welch, nearly 20 years earlier. Despite struggling on the bike, McCormack showcased his exceptional running skills, completing the run in 1 hour and 40 minutes, securing his fourth World Title and making him the sport’s oldest World Champion.
McCormack triathlon career is characterised by unprecedented achievements, including multiple world titles in short-course and long course racing and IRONMAN competitions, and a tenacious spirit that led him to solidifying his legacy as one of the greatest triathletes in the history of the sport.
In a final reflection on the pursuit of dreams, McCormack emphasised the importance of facing fears, silencing doubts, and going after goals with unwavering passion.
“As athletes, we decide to risk it all, to chase a goal or a dream that we’ve had since we were little kids.” McCormack said.
“We watched in the Olympics on television saying one day I’d like to do that. But there’s that voice in the back of your head and your peers telling you that it’s not possible at times.
“If you can face those fears and face those demons, those voices, and still have the courage to go out and pursue it, pursue it with vigour and passion, it can be achieved.
“I remember watching the 1987 IRONMAN Hawaii on television with my mother and saying, “one day I’m going to do that race.” And both my brothers wet themselves with laughter, saying, “you? you’re pathetic.” But that’s what brothers do.
“Had I listened to them, I wouldn’t be sitting here in front of you. So, I say, chase your dreams, go for it.
“It’s an amazing life. It gave me my life. It gave me my friendships. It’s given me everything and I’m forever indebted to this sport of triathlon.
“There’s nothing like it, you’ll never regret it. Don’t listen to the naysayers. You can be anything you want to be if you truly believe it.”