Spirit Animals of the Triathlete

Sport, in general, attracts all sorts of people. Many of the characteristics of people involved in similar sports tend to align pretty closely. Perhaps either the very nature of a particular sport attracts certain personalities or the personalities of those involved in those sports alters, moving closer to the stereotypical character associated due purely to exposure and absorption. Golfers tend to be driven, soccer players a little bit whiney, tennis players are opinionated and vocal about it, and archers can come across as particularly highly strung. I’ve always had trouble having a conversation with motorsports enthusiasts, the topic just keeps changing lanes and the past few jockeys I’ve met have been a touch discourteous – very short in their responses to questions. It sometimes seems that I can pick a person’s preferred sport by having a conversation with them about something completely unrelated … except for triathletes.

I realised recently, when trying to describe the typical triathlete to a non-triathlete, that there isn’t really a general stereotype that encompasses the majority of us. Whether it’s because of the youth of triathlon and its current rapid growth or the athletic smelting of three quite different sports bringing an assortment of sporting personalities together, we really don’t have a typical “us” that can be described in usual “human” characteristics. This, of course, is a great thing – such a vibrant spectrum of characters the triathlon scene in Australia and beyond, it has me seeking broader illustrative margins to depict triathletes. I thought I’d begin documenting the varied tri-personalities for you and your training buddies and align them as well as I could to certain creatures from the wide world of the animal kingdom:

The Hawk
Numbers, numbers, and more numbers – we all know the Hawk. From far above the clouds the Hawk takes in all the possible information: wind, velocity, trajectory; power to weight and timeframe. Once all the available data has been collected, processed, analysed, recollected and compared then, and only then, will the strike begin. With pinpoint accuracy the attack is launched upon the otherwise oblivious prey: race day happens and all the planning is revealed. If all the variables are accounted for the Hawk will feast on victory. Some elements missed? It’s back to the drawing board hungry and even more determined.

The Sloth
The evolution and existence of the Sloth in triathlon continues to baffle other triathlon species. Rarely seen and even more rarely moving, the Sloth is an enigma in the triathlon realm. Often living off a limited diet of whatever is within arms reach, these loafing yet loveable creatures seemingly take their triathlon existence as it comes. Training when they happen upon a session by chance and competing at an extremely leisurely pace, paradoxically exciting onlookers who
are affected by simply witnessing the atypical occasion.

The Cockatoo
Being seen is the Cockatoo’s M.O. Flair over function, and socialising over speed are these guys’ priorities. You won’t see a Cockatoo’s feather out of place just for the sake of chasing a segment record. Most commonly in the company of other Cockatoos, these triathletes can occasionally be seen with other, more serious type triathlon fauna usually to take advantage of the attention their company is receiving. Always immaculately presented in all the latest gear the Cockatoo is comfortable amongst quite different personalities to their own, even adapting to mimic other species behaviours, mannerisms and speech.

The Ant
There’s always at least one Ant in every training group. Socially meek, finely framed and always busy in the background the Ant is always the most underestimated of the group. Unceasingly working towards a bigger common goal these workaholic’s abilities go almost completely unnoticed until it’s time to put the work on display. For all the to-ing and fro-ing going on, on the surface, invisibly a colossal structure of complexity has been constructed below. The Ant, quiet and unassuming will be ready to go when the starter’s gun blows and the heavy lifting really begins.

The Honey Badger
The Honey Badger, a stouthearted creature, is an athlete we probably all know. Particularly polarised in personality, these individuals are most well-known for their unrelenting, headlong aggression that they display, particularly nurturing and protective behaviour towards those close to them. Constantly seeking challenges, they are rarely idle. This voraciousness
for triathlon often steers the Honey Badger into situations where difficult challenges and formidable opponents are oft-encountered but true to their character they will step up, bear teeth and fight.

The Unicorn
The training partner we want to despise but can do no less than love. Sighted on even rarer occasion than the Sloth but unlike the languid athletes of the group, when the Unicorn appears magic happens. Magnificent, majestic, and aesthetically envied by all, the Unicorn attends training or racing only after months of rumours and false sightings, effortlessly gliding through the required task, defying all logic and human binding laws of nature. Witnessing the Unicorn in action one can’t help but become lost in wonder. Is the creature even aware of its grandeur? But such questions are naught answered as suddenly, stirring from the dreamlike thought the Unicorn has disappeared as instantly as it appeared leaving you questioning if it was even there at all.

These are but a few of the millions of sea, land and sky beasts and bugs that could more accurately portray the full-colour palate that is the collective triathlon community. No doubt you may see parts of yourself and triathlon buddies in some or all of these (if I may) “Spirit Animals” and that is why we can’t be pinned down or pigeonholed even into stereotypical subgroups. Our diversity is one of the greatest attributes of triathlon and makes being a part of this community such an expedition!


Brendan Sexton

As a youngster, Brendan’s life ambition was to be the fifth Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle. That didn’t quite pan out. But triathlon did. A decade on, he’s still at it.
Follow Brendan
Twitter: @kung_fu_sexton

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