As a sports fan when I was a kid I still remember every single interaction I had with athletes I looked up to. I remember most of those conversations word for word. I think I still have a few basketball player's and surfer's signatures around somewhere. Nearly everyone was extremely nice and took the time to make me feel special and as a result they all were, and many remain, on the metaphorical pedestal I placed them upon.
Until I met Chris Legh I had never met an athlete I looked up to who put me on the same level as them. We were equals. This wasn't merely because triathletes are far from rockstars and Chris was young; this was a genuine, down-to-earth personality and pride Chris had in sharing triathlon with others.
|Stolen from slowtwitch.com. Chris at home in Melbs.|
I've only met Chris twice; once after a small race in Melbourne in... I'm guessing 1996- and once at swimming training shortly after, but both times he was happy to answer my many inane triathlon questions, made me feel like I was on the right track, and also made me feel like I had contributed some knowledge to the conversation. I don't think there's much greater feeling of empowerment than teaching an idol something, even if 17 years of hindsight suggests he was probably aware that putting your sunnies in your helmet in transition is faster.
With that information in his arsenal Chris won several Ironman races, and made it to the pointy end of the race in Kona before melting and inadvertently creating some of the most spectacular vision in endurance sport. He worked with the Gatorade Sport Science Institute to dial in his hydration and came back stronger. Getting through another health issue in 2006 Chris was unable to race Ironman consistently so adapted with the situation and ended up dominating 70.3 racing for years.
It is this relentless desire to find a new way to do things that has allowed Chris to race professionally for more than 20 years and maintain long relationships with sponsors. Being instrumental in the creation of Ironman Melbourne and still wanting to go long, Chris raced IM Melbs this year, taking an incredible 5th place then backed it up with a great race at Coeur d'Alene and managed to qualify for Hawaii, where he will race his last as a professional this Saturday.
As an outside observer of his glittering career I have the utmost respect for his ability to adapt, his understanding of the business of triathlon, and what seems like, year-round fitness! However, as an insider to that conversation in 1996 that Chris will most certainly have forgotten, I have the utmost respect for the time he took to make me feel like I could go pro if I wanted to.