That guy you see running on DVP might be Simon Whitfield
Whitfield was in town Wednesday to help unveil plans for the Toronto Triathlon Festival on July 22 on a course that snakes through the city’s downtown core and along eastbound Gardiner and northbound Don Valley Parkway.
“It’s a showcase event,” said Whitfield. “Chicago has had the biggest race in the world for years. New York City has a big race. L.A. has a big race. Now, Toronto will have this great race. I’m really excited and honoured to be up here. It’s a big thrill.”
Whitfield won’t be doing the Olympic distance in Toronto – he’ll be doing the “sprint,” which at .75k of swimming, 20k of cycling and a 5k run is half the Olympic distance. He sees the Toronto race as a perfect way to get ready for the Aug. 7 men’s Olympic triathlon in London.
“For me, the Olympic year is about keeping the things we can control as low key as possible,” said Whitfield, Olympic champion in 2000 in Sydney and silver medalist with a stirring run in 2008 in Beijing. “This is a great opportunity for that.
“Instead of getting to a race in Hamburg, which is all-on, all-pressure, WCS (World Championships Series) racing. Just to be in Toronto, I find it much more relaxing. Gets you in a great head space for an Olympic campaign, I suppose.”
Those anticipating another big traffic jam – the grumbling over the marathons never seems to cease -- are unlikely to be in that same great head space.
The race is being run by Triathlon Canada and Sports Focused Consulting, run by Jeff Chong, son of former councillor Gordon Chong, Mayor Rob Ford’s righthand man on the fractious subway issue.
Ford once proposed moving all such races off city streets and into parks, but Chong seems to have been able to sell city council on its merits despite being turned down at the public works committee.
Chong said the race was three years in the making and that there is a projected $1.6 million economic benefit to the city and $2.3 million for the province in the first year.
“I also think that as a city we should be at a level that other cities are at that host things like this,” said Chong. “What we’re creating here is going to be a signature event that allows us to play in the big leagues as it were with respect to some of these bigger types of races.”
Chong said the event will start at 7 a.m. and the triathletes will be off the course early “before people on a Sunday morning are going to even know about it.”
“Quite frankly, the city is the show here,” said Chong. “We wanted to show off the best of what the city has to offer. Going through the Gardiner, passing the Air Canada Centre, the CN Tower, those sort of things. The speed you can generate coming down the DVP … those are the sort of things we were looking for.”
Alan Trivett, executive director of Triathlon Canada, said they hope to hold the Canadian championships in Toronto in 2013 and 2014, as well as a sanctioned International Triathlon Union event in 2014 as a test event for the 2015 Pan Am Games.
Whitfield, who turns 37 in May, would like to stick around for a crack at the Pan Ams.
“I’m competitive so I try to forget I’m getting older. I just like racing. Pan Am Games, Toronto. Who wouldn’t want to be there?”