Four-Time Ironman World Champion Chrissie Wellington Calls It A Career
Often when professional athletes are contemplating the perfect time to end his or her career, the thought of “going out on a high note,” comes into play. In other words, bowing out gracefully after a huge win, a championship or a massive personal accomplishment becomes the ultimate time to hang up the boots. Many are fortunate enough to experience this perfect storm, even more are not. Four-time Ironman World Champion Chrissie Wellington had no choice. Whenever she chose to call it a career, she was going out a champion. The British triathlon legend had never lost a race in her professional career. Enduring the 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike and 26.2 mile marathon run, thirteen times, Wellington remained undefeated during her professional career from 2007 until about a week ago. Wellington officially announced her retirement, citing that she had “achieved more than I could have ever imagined.”
If you just mention the name “Chrissie Wellington” to anyone in the sport of triathlon, yes, the four Ironman World Championships and undefeated resume come to the top of their mind. However, if you really asked them what that name meant to them, you’d be hard pressed to find a person who didn’t mention the class and dignity in which Wellington carried herself on and off the course. She is one of Ironman’s greatest champions athletically and personally. Known for her dazzling smile, Wellington remained positive and cheerful throughout her demanding career, always representing the sport of triathlon in the highest light. Well spoken, authentic and as humble as they come, Wellington was, and remains, a role model to millions of little girls and boys around the world, exhibiting what a true champion looks like.
While it’s a sad day in the sport of triathlon, watching one of its greatest champions step aside, this wont be the last we’ll see of Chrissie Wellington. While she sets out on a personal quest to enjoy life outside of Ironman for a time, she has vowed that her desire and passion for the sport has not waned. Don’t be surprised to see her (and her smile) wandering courses around the world as a fan of triathlon and a supporter of those courageous enough to compete in her beloved sport.
Oakley would like to congratulate Chrissie on an illustrious career and thank her for representing Oakley and the sport of triathlon with the highest of class over the past five years and beyond. Best of luck in your personal endeavors and we can’t wait to see what is next for Chrissie Wellington!
Four Questions With The Newly Retired Chrissie Wellington
Oakley: You won the Ironman World Championship four times, along with countless other races. What stands out in terms of your career?
Chrissie Wellington: It was fulfilling my potential. I always sought ‘the perfect race’ – the true meaning of ‘sporting success’. That race within myself where I dug to the depths mentally and physically, and that hard-fought race with my competitors where we all fought to the finish line. The Ironman World Championships in 2011 was the icing on the cake for me as an athlete. It was my ‘perfect race’, and I finally felt worthy of being called a champion.
As I crossed the line I honestly felt a weight lift off my shoulders, and not just because I had won. Because I had defied what I thought I could achieve, and the searching for ‘sporting success’ had ended. I was content. I didn’t need faster times, more Ironman victories or more accolades, to know, deep down, that I had been the best athlete I could possibly be.
Oakley: You’re only 35 years old, comparatively young for retirement. What was the motivation behind this decision? What’s next?
Chrissie Wellington: It’s all about achieving a dream. And mine came true the day I crossed the line in Kona 2011. That opens the door to new challenges and new opportunities. If I continue with Ironman, how can I know what else is out there? What other amazing adventures might be waiting in the wings?
But I don’t mind admitting, I don’t have a clear idea of what the future holds – a definite goal or focus. That was, in part, what was making me question the wisdom of retiring from Ironman. I find it incredibly difficult and disconcerting to answer ‘I don’t know’ when faced with the inevitable question ‘If not Ironman, what?’
That state of flux, that uncertainty, strikes fear into the heart of the uber controlling, regimen-obsessed part of me. But I need to give myself the time to explore, to open doors, to hopefully have some other, unexpected doors open in front of me. I need to wander a little knowing that the ‘right’ path and the next goal will emerge through the mist.
In terms of my specific plans, first and foremost I want to enjoy some time at home, catching up with friends and family. I will spend Christmas with my wonderful family, and then Tom [Lowe] and I are heading to Borneo for a couple of weeks. In February I will be going to Guatemala to head-up a training day and do some public speaking engagements and a charity event, and from there, I’ll be heading to Costa Rica where I’ll be a guest coach on a bike tour. After that I am open to offers!
I would love to continue to work on women/sport related issues, including working with the media to really build on the positive momentum generated by the Olympics and Paralympics. I also have my own personal projects that I am in the process of developing, as well as talking to various organizations that are doing some great work on sport/development related activities – in terms of learning from them and perhaps even inputting to their work in some capacity. I will also continue the ambassadorial work for my sponsors, do some public speaking and be an active patron of my chosen charities, including the Blazeman Foundation for ALS, Jane’s Appeal, Girls Education Nepal and Gotribal.
And of course, my life will always involve doing sport, so rest assured I will be on the start line of one endurance event or another, it just wont be to embark on 140.6 miles of swim, bike or run!
Oakley: What has the the importance of eyewear been in your career?
Chrissie Wellington: I wasn’t always an eyewear aficionado. I wore a pair of $20 glasses when I won my first world championships! But as soon as I donned a pair of Oakleys; that changed!
I realized how much I could benefit, in terms of performance and my general eyesight health, by wearing the highest quality sunglasses, with UV protection, a proper fit, and polarized lenses. I also looked slightly more stylish and fashionable too!
I have proudly worn the special-edition pink/white breast cancer awareness glasses at many of my races, including the World Ironman Championships in Kona. My grandmother had breast-cancer, and this Oakley initiative is a fantastic example of how sport and development can be combined to raise money and awareness for a hugely important cause.
Oakley: Finally, there are so many girls (and boys), men and women, out there who you’ve inspired with your performance, your humble attitude and your SMILE. We know we will see you around for a long time to come, but ultimately, what do you hope is your lasting legacy on the sport of triathlon?
Chrissie Wellington: Its been an absolute privilege to do the sport of Ironman, and of course to be an Oakley sponsored athlete. It has been a privilege to be able to make a sport I love my career, it is a privilege to have had the opportunity to have worked under some of the best coaches in the world. It has been a privilege to have been able to travel to new places and to be able to test my mind and my body. It has been a privilege to have raced against some of the world’s best athletes on the greatest sporting stage. It has been a privilege to be able to speak to the media and spread the word about our great sport. It is a privilege to sign autographs and pose for photographs. It is a privilege to raise awareness about charitable causes that I care so much about, including through the Oakley breast-cancer awareness initiative.
I hope my lasting legacy – the one thing I can give back in return for this privilege – is proving to everyone that more is possible. And proving you can do it with a smile!