Simon Whitfield makes it clear: “I'm still hungry”
The words ate away at Simon Whitfield after reading his profile in the Star's The Olympic Life series on Wednesday.
It was the line: He’s the first to admit he doesn’t have the same hunger as an athlete as he once did.
“Did I really say that?” asked the Canadian triathlon legend in an email on Wednesday.
Well, the answer to that is 'Yes' and 'No.'
Here's the transcript of that part of the interview:
Do you think that you're as hungry as ever as an athlete?
Whitfield: “That's a great question. No. It's a different type of hunger now. I call it incentive. When you're young, you have the incentive of belief, of naivete, of sole focus, of financial need. When you first win, you have the incentive of proving you weren't just a one-hit wonder, you can do it again, that you can repeat. Then you eventually hit a place where you have to figure out the incentive. That's been the big struggle. My incentive now is purely internal drive and internal love of (figuring out the) puzzle because I don't have the same incentives that I had before. To say I did would belittle what others are doing and what I did before. For sure, that's the biggest struggle. I talk to (friend and peer) Greg Bennett about it a lot. He struggles with what's the internal incentive. And I don't mean that purely from a financial standpoint, although that does play a factor. It's just what drives you, what makes you push harder and harder and be wholly committed? And it's incentive.”
Just to make sure I understand, what would you say your incentive is?
Whitfield: “Now? I've had to build the incentive basically, I've had to recreate an incentive now in the sense ... My incentive is now that I love it. And I feel very, very fortunate that I have this opportunity to work hard and express myself in what I consider my art, my creative. What I've come to realize now is I love figuring out a puzzle and expressing my fitness basically. But I have to really remind myself that it's about that. Because if I think about it, if the incentive was money, I could make a lot more money if I didn't do this Olympic distance, if I went on the road and did speaking tours and stuff like that. So I have to make the incentive and I don't have the same belief I had before. I struggle more with that than I ever did. The same incentive isn't there like 'I'm going to smash people.' If that's an incentive. Paula (Findlay) has that incentive now: 'I'm going to smash people.' Kyle (Jones) has the incentive because he want to prove he can smash people. Smash isn't the word but it's to win. He wants to prove he can win. Paula wants to prove she can keep winning. That's her incentive. My incentive now is a real feeling of how fortunate I am to do this and do it at this level and the knowledge I'll never do anything else at this level, I don't think. My guitar skills are terrible. I'm a bad artist.”
So, the real answer is Whitfield doesn't have the same hunger as an athlete as he did before but there's definitely still a hunger there, a different hunger, as he says, and a healthy appetite to succeed.
As Whitfield said in a followup email: “I think part of it is just me figuring out what it all means to me. I'm as hungry, it's just a different reason. I drive just as hard, I work just as hard, I'm certainly just as hard to be around, I just do it with different responsibilities and under different circumstances than I did before I had kids to take care of, businesses to run. My hunger is different, not less, I'm driven by different incentives but with the same end goal, get the most out of myself, to drive, drive, drive. I'll quit the day I'm "mailing it in.” London won't be my last race, my last race will be the race I don't prepare with everything I have for.”
Glad to have that clarified.