There are four special athletes who have now completed each and every Nepean Triathlon held. Greg Davies, Eugene Irvin, Peter Smith & Greg Chapman are the Nepean Legends who return every year to ensure the maintain their perfect record of Nepean Triathlon completions.
Nepean Triathlon retrospective
Below is a look back at past races and race winners to give you an insight into the Nepean Triathlon and a ‘Where are they now?’ on past winners.
February 1982 saw a group of mates (after seeing the Hawaii Ironman’s TV coverage) put on the first Triathlon in Sydney’s west. There had been events held before in Australia (1981 Elouera endurathon), but the Nepean event was to continue on. The event was held in the Nepean River with no bike racks and a “handler” essential to hold your gear and bike. The race winner over the distance of 800/40/14 was a 34 year old, Greg Reddan. Greg was to go onto set the standard in triathlon becoming the first Aussie to crack the top ten in the Hawaii Ironman in 1982 (7th). Greg went on to devote his life to fitness, teaching for 39 years in PE and has released numerous papers and articles directly related to his triathlon background and still competes today. The 1982 women’s champ was Gabrielle Howard, who after a couple of years in the sport stepped away.
December 1983 the course stayed the same and we still had no bike racks. The race grew; with the novelty sport “Triathalon” (it took a while to get our current spelling) taking off. Race winner, teenage Clayton Stevenson showed everyone the way home with a devastating cycle leg. Clayton soon dropped triathlon and in 1988 scored 2nd in the NSW cycle champs, and an Olympic berth in the road race at Seoul. The 1983 women’s champ Liz Hepple went onto to become one of the most formidable triathletes/ cyclists in the world. Liz not only won numerous Aussie titles in triathlon but took the bronze medal in the women’s version of the Tour de France and represented Australia in the 1988 Olympics. Liz still holds the record for the cycle leg of Sri Chinmoy triathlon (80km in 2.06). You can still see Liz’s influence today with her role as a coach taking Sara Carigan to gold in the Athens Olympic road race.
The first Sunday in December became the race date for a number years from 1984. The race stayed in the Nepean River but moved down the river 3 kms. 1984 will be remembered by many for the cold water (about 15C) as Warragamba Dam had to open its gates the day before (before drought days), causing a number of competitors to withdraw with hyperthermia (before wetsuit days as well). Race winners Kevin Charman and Gaylene Clews went onto make their place in the sport felt with Kevin being a major force in Australia for a couple of years and Gaylene becoming the pioneer for the women on the US triathlon circuit in the mid 80’s winning and placing on the US national circuit. Gaylene also went onto become marathon champ, Robert De Castella’s wife for some years.
As you see from these formidable years of the Nepean Triathlon the race gave many athletes their step onto the world scene.
This era saw the ‘toaster’ bike racks bec6me part of the race’s infrastructure and heartbreak hill in the 14 km run (a 1km dirt fire trail which went straight up the blue mountains escarpement) taken out due safety concerns. Race champions were Stu McNeil and Annette Dwyer. Stu still has the race record for the oldest ever champion (in his late 30’s when he won). A school teacher who was always young at heart, kept picking up money against those half his age for the next couple of seasons. Annette was and is still an outstanding runner who went onto to win back to back Nepean titles (85, 86) she then focused on her running finishing top5 in the Australian track 3 & 10k titles as well as picking up numerous wins and places on the road circuit (even in the US). Annette has stayed quite involved with multi sports though, placing 4th in her age in the world duathlon titles in 2005.
The race format began to be locked into place with a mostly triangular 1km swim in the Nepean river followed a loop course of a 37km cycle to the country town of Wallacia follwed by a tough hilly now 12km run. Champions were Annette Dwyer again with a flamboyant triathlete Nigel Barber. Nigel went onto work for a the major Triathlon magazine of the time.
One of the first successful triathletes out of Western Australia took the womens title, Sue Turner. while the mens title went to Australia’s 80’s Ironman star Greg Stewart. Greg was hot of his 3rd placing in the Hawaiian Ironman a couple of months earlier (the best Aussie result since Greg Reddan – Nepean’s innaugral winner).
Another Ironman star to make her mark on the race, was Louise Bonham taking the title. Louise would go on to become one of Australia’s most accomplished triathletes, with four Aussie Ironman wins as well as placing in the top ten in the Hawaii Ironman. Louise would end her career abruptly due to a motorist running her down while training in Canada. You can still catch up Louise though at numerous events working for Polar. The mens champ in 1988 was one of the most flamboyant characters of the sport, Spot Anderson. Spot went onto dominate over the next couple of years. Spot was always one to have a go and went onto compete in the Uncle Toby’s surf Ironman series as well as still keeping actively involved in triathlon. Spot is still coaching and competing today.
Ironman champions and the Nepean triathlon were building a special link, with Louise Bonham taking back to back tiitles. The mens champ was a young larrikin from Bangor, Sydney, hot off his 3rd place in the Hawaii Ironman Greg Welch. Greg ‘plucky’ Welch was on the upward swing of his career which took him to multiple world titles and the Hawaii win in 1994. Greg, as most will be aware, is still very much of the sport with his media commentary on Ironman events around the world.
This first eight years has given some insights into the triathletes of that time. They were some of the sports best and helped shape our sport into what we enjoy today. Stay tuned for the next instalment which will take us up to our present champions
From 1990 the format was still locked into a 1km triangular swim in the Nepean River out of Tench reserve followed by the testing 37km cycle (called it 40km though) to the country town of Wallacia and the legendary tough 12k run through the hills of Leonay (dropped from 14km in 1988). This year saw the individual finishers record set at 1,333 which stills stands. There had been more competitors overall in 1986 with 1,189 individuals and 315 teams, giving a total of 2,134 competing. This made it the second largest race in the world behind Chicago at the time.
A previous winner in the women’s division Liz Hepple (the ’83 winner) returned to the sport of triathlon to take the ’90 crown. Liz had spent a few years away from main stream triathlon, chasing the cycling circuit (becoming one of the worlds top female cyclists (see Part I), but burst back into the triathlon scene taking the Nepean title in 90. The male champion, Brad Bevan was starting a record of being one of the most winningest triathletes in the history of the sport. Brad was to go onto to win 3 world cup titles and become almost a perfectionist in winning the new exciting triathlon grand prix series (all in the late 90’s). Brad has just recently returned to competition (1st 35-39 age champion in 2006 Australian titles) after being struck by a car just before the build up event for the 2000 Olympic triathlon robbing him of the chance to make the team.
The event saw Donna Gould take the one and only women’s title ever in the races history for South Australia. Donna came from a running background with three Australian titles (10km in 1984 & ’85 and 3km in 1983), 1984 Olympian (3km) and 6th in the world 15km road race in 1985.
The male champion Marc Dragan (a former tennis pro), had been in the sport from the very first days and had just returned from retirement in the sport due to injury but made a statement to the “new” breed of triathletes that he was back. Marc had won the second ever Ironman triathlon in Australia, the MMM event in 1985, held around Akuna Bay – Manly. Marc went onto to be a remarkable sports commentator for the televised triathlon events for a number of years.
This was the start of a dominant reign by Victorian Tim Bentley. Tim started a 5 year winning streak in 1992. His devastating run split was the secret to his success. Tim has competed over all distances (2nd Aussie in Hawaii 1990) and still regularly competes on the Victorian circuit. He hasn’t slowed much, still posting impressive results (2005 8th Pro at the Geelong Triathlon).
Although not the beginning of a Nepean winning streak, the female champion Rina Hill has definitely stamped her mark on triathlon. Rina still competes at the elite level today, and has won numerous events over her 15 plus years in the sport. The highlight would be making the Olympic team in 2004.
As mentioned Tim Bentley won, but the interest was with the women’s race, with winner Emma Carney kicking off her career in triathlon after a stellar running career. Emma’s performance embarrassed a few top guys that day, not only for her speed but also for her wash board stomach. Emma was to go on to duel world Triathlon titles and multiple Australian titles. In 2004 Emma was inflicted with a similar complaint as Greg Welch, Ventricular Tachycardia, which has ended her athletic career.
Tim Bentley again 1st, but the women’s title was the first of back to back titles for Bianca Van Woesik. Bianca is one tough competitor. Competing and winning races all over the world, from Ironman to sprint. Done the Hawaii thing in ’93 and worked tirelessly for sports organisations in QLD and NSW to give back to the sporting arena in bucket loads. She is the current Executive Director for the Australian sports organisation for the disabled but has never really retired from the sport (or sport in general), with wins in numerous fun runs (recently the six foot track marathon).
This was the last year radio station 2WS sponsored the event (they had been involved since 1986) and the last year for the 12km run. The run course was trimmed down to 10km after numerous approaches from competitors, asking to trim the big hills out and fit in with other events distances.
The event was selected this year as a qualifying race, for the pros, for the upcoming “Tooheys Blue” grand prix series (the first grand prix series). This boosted the pro field to a record 50 men and made the racing at the front extremely tight. Young guns Chris McCormack and Craig Alexander looked the goods starting the run but Chipmunk Slater and perennial winner Tim Bentley pushed them back to 3rd and 4th.
Although there wasn’t a grand prix series for the girls the racing was intense with Bianca Van Woesik just holding out Karen Sitko of WA by 18 seconds to take her second crown.
Starting at 1996 with the 15th anniversary, the swim distance continued at 1km and the run course distance was now set at 10km (and still is). A major challenge for the race organisers this year was a bridge in the middle of the cycle course was being replaced, so a last minute course change, allowed the event to continue. The distance was trimmed 4 km but included a couple of mini “alps”. The 96 champions, Tim Bentley won his last, of 5 in row titles while a young Victorian, Joanne King made her mark on the senior ranks after winning the world junior title in 96.
The bridge in the cycle course was now in place so the cycle loop from 82 was used again. The race was still paying the top ten male and top five female pros. For the first time in the events history the locals took it to the rest of Australia’s top triathletes, with Trent Chapman from Penrith stopping Tim Bentley (by 4 seconds) from making it 6 in a row. Trent would go onto place 3rd in the world junior titles and be major force on the world circuit. Joanne King was back to make it two in a row. Joanne went onto become one of the most formidable triathletes in the world, winning the world Olympic title in 98, world long course title in 99, 99 Roth Ironman. Joanne is making a comeback to racing this season after a lay off of a few years with the Bussellton Ironman a big focus.
This was the last year the event was held at the Nepean River. With 50,000 people now living along the cycle course where there once were 10 farms, the competitor’s safety was at risk. The Olympic rowing centre being developed for 2000 would become the races home from 99. 98 winners were a couple of young promising triathletes heading for the top ranks. The women’s title was taken by a Queensland/ Kiwi, Louise Soper while Luke Harrop took his first major title. Luke would be tragically killed while on a training ride in 2002, only 24.
The first event at the new Olympic rowing centre. The distances were locked into a 1/30/10, which still stands today. The swim is a straight one way swim, with the cycle a lap of the complex (5 km) then one out and back loop while the run is two out back loops. With the facilities being first class, numerous shower/ toilet blocks, BBQs, PA system, grandstand, the race in the bush was setting the standard. The local Penrith Chapman family again had a race winner with Trent’s younger brother Leigh taking the title. The female division was taken out by a Melissa Van De Water from the Hills district of Sydney, who has still continued in the sport with a 5th place last Olympic distance worlds in Hawaii.
The Olympics had just been held in September in Sydney and the excitement could still be felt at the venue where remnants, of the oaresome foursome won medals in 3 consecutive Olympics in rowing. A damper for the triathlon is though co-race director Ched Towns dies while trying to climb Mt. Everest from altitude sickness in early 2000. Leigh Chapman had made his mark on the triathlon scene since his 99 win and returned to take back to back titles. The female champ was a stalwart of the Sydney triathlon circuit for many years Helena Edmonston and had placed top ten in the world champs 3 times (92 – 94). View results >
Now getting settled at the new venue the race organisers decided to include some kids and shorter triathlons on the Saturday before the Nepean triathlon (Nepean Enticer triathlons). This move increased the participation for the weekend to almost 900, which placed the event 2nd in NSW only to the Forster Ironman. The Chapman family were now taking turns at winning the Nepean with Trent returning from Europe just in time to take his 2nd title, while his dad (Greg) finishes his 20th Nepean (only one of 6 left). The girls were led home by teenager with exceptional cycling ability, Melanie Dickson. Melanie went on to race a number of track events, finishing on the podium a number of times. View results >
The Saturday enticer events become a permanent part of the Nepean weekend. The numbers begin to pick up (almost 1000) with the Saturday events becoming more popular. Race winner from the ACT Academy of sport was Aaron Farlow a well rounded triathlete that is still a threat to take the title. Female champ was a kiwi for the second time in the races history Anna Cleaver. Anna still competes regularly in Auckland in foot races.
The days of all the best pros in Australia racing have gone with only a handful now entering. The race committee (all competitors themselves) work on keeping the race affordable to the masses and give good value for money. The finisher medal, long sleeve finisher’s shirt, electronic timing, results book, and a bucket load of “lucky draw” prizes are the normal for just over $50. Race winners are two big names already in triathlon Nick Horman from Campbelltown, who went onto podium at the world junior champs a couple of weeks later and Melissa Ashton who has been one of the top girls on the circuit for the last few years. Melissa is the 04 & 05 Australian long course champ and is racing at the Hawaii Ironman on October 21 2006.
Race organisers are faced with the cancelling of the event, as the approval to use the main road for the event is withdrawn. With last minute negotiations the cycle/ run course are changed to use less of the public road, which appeases the authorities and the event proceeds for the 23rd time. The course changes, work for the better with a criterion type cycle created (2* 15km loops). Spectators and competitors get to experience “thunder alley”, as the bikes zipp back through the venue for two 15km laps. The run has to move to accommodate the new bike route, but venue management rush in the construction of a new pathway to allow one whole 5km lap of the rowing lake. Two laps give the desired distance perfectly for the run. To add something special a handicap system is introduced, which gives the girls a head start over the guys by the average of the time that the guys had beaten the girls by over the last 5 years. It is hailed a success with a sprint in the last 200 metres giving Nick Horman back to back titles and the boys the win. NSW central coast girl, Angie Sharp improves on her 5th place in 03 to take the girls title convincingly.
The year the locals took their race back. The handicap system was again used which saw two Penrith teenagers Adrian Comminotto and Brittany Orr, who trained together, fight it out for the outright honors. Adrian improved from his 5th the previous year while Brittany moved up from 3rd in 04. Adrian managed to catch Brittany with 500 metres to go as Brittany had minimal running training from an injury. This year saw the numbers of the competitors which had competed in every Nepean down to four Greg Chapman, Eugene Irvin, Peter Smith and Greg Davies.
This year saw the running of the 25th anniversary Nepean Triathlon which drew a number of past winners back to either compete or participate in the weekend of racing. Again the handicap format was held for outright winner with once again the male winner out ran the leading female in the final stages. Nick Hornman claimed his third Nepean victory with Angie Sharp chalking up her second. It was another perfect day for triathlon even spiderman turned up to have a go, unofficially Nepean’s first superhero! The 4 remaining and determined Nepean legends all competed and completed their 25th Nepean.
We welcome the legends, all other competitors and their supporters turn out again in 2007 for the 26th running of the Nepean Triathlon.
Future Ironman winner, Aaron Farlow (1 hour 29 minutes 53 seconds) and former world triathlon champion and now three time Nepean champion, Joanne King (1 hour 45 minutes 33 seconds) took the overall honors in the 2007 Nepean Triathlon. Chris Kemp was second male and special invitee to the race Brad Beven (at 39) finished third in a great effort to show he could still mix it with the young guys. Beven looked like he was still racing the televised grand prix series as he ran out of the transition to start the run in first place with a host of triathletes in pursuit. Second lady was Sophia Amor-Smith.
International athletes took the honors in the 2008 Nepean. Ireland’s Bryan Keane won the men’s title with Chile’s best triathlete and Olympian Barbara Riveros taking the women’s title as well as the handicap title. Both Keane and Riveros race the ITU world series for their countries and both have recorded podium finishes in these races.
Future Hawaii Ironman champion Pete Jacobs showed he can race short course taking the win. Melissa Vanderwater made a statement she is still a force in the women’s ranks taking her second Nepean title.
2010 saw competitors racing in extreme hot conditions. ACT athlete Michelle Wu took the women’s title and the handicap in 1 hour 41 minutes 54 seconds and US Olympic distance champion and soon to be Australian Olympian, Brendan Sexton taking the men’s title in 1 hour 30 minutes 18 seconds, impressive times in the hot race conditions. Second place went to Commonwealth games silver medalist in the Steeplechase, Melissa Rollison, who had moved into triathlon and 2009 Nepean champion Pete Jacobs.
A new format was trialled by race organisers with the top 20 male and female Nepean finishers invited to race a short grand prix race in front of the packed grandstand. Although the race was an outstanding success, this concept only lasted the one year as it was felt it made the race day too long for the Nepean competitors. This race was won by Brendan Sexton and Melissa Rollison.
Long course specialists Tim Reed and Melissa Rollison (recent world 70.3 champion) were victorious in 2011 with Melissa taking the handicap title in a course record 1 hour 38 minutes 35 seconds. Second places went to 2010 champion Michelle Wu and Mitch Robbins. The finish line for the triathlon moved to the front of the main grandstand.
2012 saw excellent racing conditions for competitors and two London Olympians dominate the race with Courtney Atkinson taking the men’s title and breaking the course race record in the time of 1 hour 27 minutes 44 seconds and Denmark Olympian Rachel Klamer taking the women’s title in 1 hour 38 minutes 40 seconds only 5 seconds outside the women’s race record. The two Olympians won from long course specialists, 2011 male champion Tim Reed and Lisa Marangon
The guys verses the girls handicap saw the closest finish ever with Courtney catching Rachel on the line in a photo finish. Race commentator Matt Harris’s call of the race finish sounded like the end of the Melbourne Cup .
All competitors were rewarded for their efforts with a cooldry race shirt, a full size race towel together with the highly sought after finisher’s medallion.
2013 saw one of the hottest fields assembled for a triathlon in Australia for some time. A significant increase in prize money drawing a very elite field. With 4 Olympic representatives, a swathe of ITU competitors and numerous Nepean Triathlon champions we were set for a hot race at the front of the pack. With the event sold out months in advance the age groupers were also full to the brim with some excellent talent. As usual a number of first timers were also present wishing to experience the Nepean Triathlon.
The lead up to Nepean Triathlon was filled with drama after the worst bushfires for many years affecting the surrounding areas. Roads were shut, air quality deteriorated and the event was close to being cancelled. Luckily the weather changed to allow the event to continue.
Emma Moffatt the 2008 Olympic Bronze medallist hit the front in the run and stretched away a clear lead to take the woman’s title and avoided capture by a determined Aaron Royle to take the outright victory from the men.
To recognise the efforts of the Rural Fire Service who served the community during the 2013 fires and have volunteered at the Nepean Triathlon throughout its history. A total of $14,000 was donated to the RFS through the Nepean Triathlon, the race sponsors raffle and a generous donation from outright race winner Emma Moffatt.
With prize money increased slightly from 2013 the elite triathletes lined up once again for the Nepean Triathlon.
The cycle course was amended to a safer one lap course allowing more entrants to participate. Nearly 1300 entrants contest the event, close to the highest in the events history.
The handicap distance was lessened this year and it was expected that the males may take the outright title. A fast finishing Aaron Royle pursued Ashleigh Gentle right down to the line. However it was Ashleigh who prevailed taking her first Nepean Triathlon title (after finishing 2nd in 2013). Aaron Royle took the male title for the second year running.
An inspirational John Maclean competed and completed the Nepean Triathlon as an able bodied athlete having managed the feat after 26 years in a wheelchair. The final lap of the run was joined by his many supporters and raised over $200,000 for helping young Australians in wheelchairs.