Singapore (March 28, 2017) - When Richard Murray hoisted the solid bronze champions trophy above his head two Sundays ago, its weight was symbolic of what he had achieved: he had triumphed over the best in the world across three days of intense super-sprint racing to become the first Super League Triathlon champion.
This was a man who had five-to-one odds against even being on the podium, yet those who were keen observers of the sport, like Super League Triathlon co-founder Chris McCormack, knew he was very capable of walking away with the $100,000 AUD top prize. The South African rated himself more modestly, though.
“I knew where my body was at, but after only a few events and about four speed running sessions this year I was not very sure,” said Murray of his confidence leading into Super League Hamilton Island. Once racing had commenced, though, he had a better idea of his chances. “On the first day, I noticed that this type of format really does suit me: I raced road cycling and was a 800/1500-meter runner.” The experience definitely showed.
It wasn’t all wine and roses, however. Behind the scenes, Murray managed ankle and Achilles pain throughout the weekend with the help of Super League Triathlon’s team of physiotherapists, including Gold Coast-based Brad Beer of Pogo Physios with whom he continues to work after the race. Yet once the start gun fired on each day, Murray showed no sign of weakness with his poker face and piercing glare. “Three days of racing is tactical. I’m a very good couch surfer and staying low when I need to,” Murray revealed.
Murray knew exactly how to play the game with his secret recipe of patience, consistency, and being in the right place at the right time. For most of each day’s racing he stayed within striking distance of the front and only unleashed hard for the front in the final minutes.
His closest competitors were 2016 ITU world champion Mario Mola and young up-and-comer Jake Birtwhistle, the 2015 Under-23 world champion, who finished second and third overall respectively. All the other athletes on the start list were nothing to sneeze at, either. “The quality was there: world champions, Olympic champions, you name it.” But Murray relished the challenge. “High-octane, flat-out, and no fear racing -- that’s what I love.”
Even with the high points of winning both Day 1 and Day 2 of racing, Day 3 where Murray finished third was the most memorable to him. The past two days of heat had broken to bring on torrential downpours, bringing temperatures down and soaking the bike course. It was also the day athletes needed to go fast enough through the first two stages of the Eliminator in order to make the final stage and race for the win. “Swimming behind the Polyanskiy brothers, next to Henri Schoeman, and counting how many people there were in each stage -- that was really cool,” Murray recalled.
“Also some of the team crew cheering for us when we were warming up in the rain before the final day’s racing was quite special. Kudos to the team in the rain and caring for the athletes first. This should be seen by all other triathlon event organizers.”