Busy 2013 as NWTC celebrates 30 years

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North West Triathlon Club is preparing for a very busy 2013.

Having enjoyed the most memorable moment in its history this year when club member Aileen Morrisson did the North West proud in the London Olympics, NWTC is now looking forward to celebrating its 30th anniversary during Derry’s City of Culture year.

To mark the milestone the Derry-based club will host several endurance events, including a four-race 5k series which begins at Bay Park this morning and culminating in a City of Culture Triathlon in June.

And with several members of the club having qualified to represent Ireland in the ITU World Triathlon Finals in September, NWTC certainly looks set for an action-packed 2013.

Despite the popularity of the annual races being staged by the club in 2013, Club Secretary Patrick McLaughlin makes no bones about the importance of the new addition to the North West triathlon calendar.

With membership of the club having doubled in the last year and given the profile of the City of Culture both nationally and internationally, the specially organised triathlon based around the spectacular River Foyle is expected to draw a massive number of entries.

“The City of Culture Triathlon will be the main event for us next year,” Patrick says.

“We’re hoping to get the added profile of it being included as an international home nations event as part of the run up to the Commonwealth Games in 2014. On top of that, our very own Olympian Aileen Morrisson and her Ireland team mate Gavin Noble are also hoping to be available to take part in the race.

“We’re already getting plenty of queries about it from locals and triathletes from clubs around the country - it certainly is an exciting prospect.”

But the club has plenty in store before the big mid-summer race, including Ireland’s second longest running triathlon - the popular annual event dedicated to Derry’s two-time Olympic swimming hero, Liam Ball. “May will see our signiture annual event, the Liam Ball Triathlon, which is in the National Series once again next year and is expected to fill out with entrants very quickly. Normally it’s open to around 250 entrants and fills out within a fortnight of opening. In April, the North West Duathlon - which has been in the National Duathlon Championships for several years - will be held in Burnfoot and while it’s not a championship race this year, it’s expected to attract similar numbers as it’s a great warm-up for the triathlon season.”

All three of the club’s big races in 2013 are to be run as a North West series with overall prizes for the top performers across the various age groups. There’ll even be a chance for kids and those who never dreamed of taking part in triathlons to get involved. “We’re hoping to run a few races over shorter courses next year for children aged between 8 and 16 years and to give people the chance to give triathlons a go with a shorter Try a Tri event,” explains Patrick, himself an experienced triathlete and eight-time Ironman finisher.

In September, local eyes will be on four club members as they compete in the ITU World Triathlon Finals at Hyde Park in London - where many thousands witnessed the memorable Olympic triathlons unfold this summer. After enjoying fantastic 2012 season results, Jarlath Fearon, Maeve Maher McWilliams, Joanne Doran and Daniel Quigley will line up in their respective age groups in an effort to bring further glory to the local club.

And it’s a club that has enjoyed much glory, at least on the national stage, throughout its long history, the most recent accolades being awarded just last weekend at the Triathlon Ireland annual awards dinner. The club’s Honourary President, Greencastle man, Karl Vekins was named Technical Official of the year for his firm but fair approach in transition areas up and down the country in 2012. Local Triathletes Joanne Doran, Maeve Maher McWilliams and Roisin Lynch also picked up medals for stellar performances in their age groups throughout the season.

The growing success of the club across the four triathlon distances (sprint - 750m swim, 20k cycle, 5k run; Olympic - 1.5k swim, 40k bike, 10k run; Ironman 70.3 - 1.9k swim, 90k cycle, 21.1k run or half marathon; and Ironman 3.9k swim, 180k bike and a full marathon of 42.2k) has been attributed to the specialised coaching and tailored training regimes put in place. Many of the training structures were laid down in the club by local triathlon guru and all round athlete, the late Colm Quigley. Paddy explains: “Colm’s contribution to the club was tremendous. He put a coaching pattern in place which changed the way we train and think about training. In terms of the swimming coaching the contribution of Léan McLaughlin has been really important to the club, her coaching has been a great draw for new members - she really pushes everyone to their potential in the pool.”

The club now has six qualified coaches to help members achieve the results they aspire to. “We have specific training plans for people to build towards their goals for the season whether they want to do a sprint, Olympic, ironman 70.3 or ironman distance. So each member can work towards their specific goals.”

The success of the club year on year has been built on humble beginnings in the 1980s as the very sport of triathlon started to flourish after the very first 1970s events in California (triathlon) and Hawaii (ironman). Veteran triathletes Terry Donnelly and Roisin Lynch have been involved since the very beginning. Indeed, Terry is one of only two people - local man Danny Sheerin being the other - to have competed in every single Liam Ball event since its inception. Retired schoolteacher St Cecilia’s College, Roisin, missed only one of the events because she was pregnant at the time.

She recalls the inception of NWTC. “In 1983 triathlon was a fairly new sport that had grabbed the attention of athletes around the world. A group people all interested in the different sports got together at Templemore Sports Complex to talk about the formation of a club, among them were Adrian Kelly, Raymond McCann, Danny Gallagher, Sean Hargan, Paddy Warren, Noel White, Paddy Carr, Martin McCallion and John Cannon. At the meeting it was agreed that a general invitation be extended to anyone interested and the club was officially formed at the next meeting which I attended with others, including Terry.”

She admits being just a little green as the club made its first outing to an event in 1983. “I distinctly remember getting out of the water and then drying myself off and putting my socks on, I was in no hurry - I suppose it just shows how naive we were. I remember Anne Paul, who at that time was becoming leading triathlete, telling me not to be wasting time, stating ‘it’s a race, get on with it’.

“With the start of the Liam Ball Triathlon (Templemore Triathlon at first), it really took off in terms of popularity. I remember that Omagh man Kym Cox won the first one and Dessie McHenry won it five years in a row after that.”

Dessie, or least his wife, will also be well remembered for another contribution to the club - the introduction of trisuits. “Dessie’s wife introduced the club to trisuits, she made them herself and started a wee business making them. She made a special suit for Dessie with a big Superman ‘S’ badge on the front.”

Terry Donnelly recalls taking part in a few Milk Triathlon events in the years before the formation of the local club along with fellow club stalwart and Irish triathlon international Frank Dunlop. “Triathlon had sparked the imaginations of people involved in cycling, running and swimming, and was really taking off. Myself and Frankie Dunlop and a few others did a couple of Milk Triathlons which had been taking place for a few years before a group got together and formed the club.

“Liam Ball, who competed in the Olympics in 1968 and 1972, was the manager of the complex at the time and was very supportive. We held the Templemore Triathlon for a couple of years and it was later dedicated to Liam who died at just 32 years old.”

NWTC is a club experiencing rapid growth at the minute but the door is always open for new members. As Patrick McLaughlin explains: “If you are looking to set yourself a new challenge of competing in and finishing a triathlon, whatever the distance, or just looking for a fun and enjoyable way of getting fit, then the NWTC might just be what you are looking for. Please feel free to come along to any of our training sessions.”

For further information about NWTC email log on to www.northwesttriclub.com, email: info@northwesttriclub.com or check the club’s Facebook page.