WINSTON CROOKE – Cyclist, Triathlete, Event Organizer, Race Official.
1991/95 – Although I had come to Nevis specifically to open a windsurfing school, I had always planned to have some bikes to rent on the side as a means of supplementing my income, I had like most youths been fascinated with bikes as a youngster, and I fact repaired and renovated bikes as a 16yr old to earn pocket money.
Got my first fleet of (6) bikes and started to rent them from my windsurfing shop based at Oualie Beach Hotel, but quickly realized that I could earn more money by offering guided tours as well.
1997/8 – I had heard of a Mountain bike race happening on St Kitts so quickly formed the Nevis Cycle Club with my brother and some friends trained for a couple of weeks, then off we went, it was of course a disaster, with us getting hopelessly lost out on the off road course and my bro fracturing his collar bone, but I was hooked on the splendor of the starting line with the vibrant colors and the camaraderie shown by the riders.
After training in earnest a few of us went over to Tortola to represent Nevis in the Caribbean Cup mountain Bike race series, I remember us being laughed at by other riders on the plane over “Nevis got cyclists?? hahaha” they ribbed us, but they lost their smiles when I took 3rd place for my efforts in the Veterans downhill race section, Nevis very first medal for cycling, I was so proud. The other team members had also acquitted themselves well in the highly competitive cross country doing well enough to let everyone know we were taking it seriously.
We raced in more events in the series placing on the podium a number of times, and making our presence felt in such a way that when the country that was supposed to host the final event had to pull out, they asked me if I could do it on Nevis, I said “of course” I had 5 weeks to plan the courses, raise sponsorship, order medals and trophies, organize hotels and flight discounts etc, but we did it and The Caribbean Cup came to Nevis, where we kept it for the next four years, up to the sad demise of the entire tournament due to lack of sponsorship. However Nevis was on the map and I had even been crowned Veterans Downhill Champion of the Caribbean in 2001.
By this time the Nevis Cycle Club was In good stead, with 25 members and some of the younger cyclists coming on board whose names were soon to become very well known in the region and at home, with no more mountain bike racing the team began to enter the St Kitts Triathlon as the bike part of the relay team event, once again acquitting ourselves well, before deciding to enter as individuals in the mini tri series they held over there. I had the idea to start doing triathlon right here on Nevis, first with a mini series and then a full Olympic distance event which went well and we were off on a new adventure, Triathlon.
2001/07 – I played a major role in developing the triathlon subculture both here and within the Caribbean hosting tournaments here at home and taking the Nevis team off island as with the C/Cup to make a name for ourselves around the region, with our triathlon becoming one of the best events in the region attracting athletes from overseas as well.
Along the way I was in communication with the UCI the world governing body for cycling, as St Kitts & Nevis was under suspension for none payment of dues for the last 12 years, after much to-ing and fro-ing I was finally able to get the federation reinstated and moved the office from St Kitts to Nevis, the scene was being set for reaching out to the wider world. I was learning on my feet and after the end of the St Kitts Triathlon, and no activity from the then federation body, I also negotiated with the ITU World governing body for triathlon for me to move the Triathlon federation also to Nevis. (These two SKN governing bodies were until recently the only sport federations not based in St Kitts)
I was having fun both as an athlete and as president of two sports federations, giving me the opportunity to help raise the profile of St Kitts & Nevis abroad, Nevis was host for the very first time of the OECS Cycling Championships, something I had been campaigning for, for 4 years, I competed in the individual road race and the Team time Trial as well as organizing the event. I represented SKN at the ITU Triathlon Age group World Championships in Hamburg, Germany. I completed my first Half Iron Distance Triathlon, and at the same time we were celebrating 10 years of the Nevis Cycle& Triathlon Club (TNCTC).
One of the key things I had noticed along my journey was the lack of interest and the inherent fear of the ocean by most of the SKN population and most importantly amongst the youngsters, we had been trying to teach kids how to swim at various times but I realized we really did not have skill set required.
2008 – I decided to stop being president of the TNCTC, but remained on the board, as my other duties were taking up enough of my time, this was also a key year as I was pushing to bring a Continental Cup Triathlon to our shores, this event brought many of the best triathletes in America, Canada, South America and the Caribbean region all vying for points as this was an Olympic year. It was a huge success with 138 athletes from 25 different countries setting a new benchmark and firmly establishing triathlon with the most important audience, the Nevis public.
I also raced and completed my second half- ironman on our neighbor island of St Croix, a grueling 2km swim, 90km bike and 21km run event, at the same time I had conceived and created the OECS Triathlon Championships which was hosted on Nevis for 4 years, giving our home grown athletes the opportunity of claiming regional titles.
With our current crop of triathletes getting older and with no success bringing on new talent due to their lack of swimming, I decided to take on the mission to build swimming up as an activity and a sport, approaching the current administration with the idea of building a swimming pool and incorporating swimming lessons into the schools curriculum, I was blissfully unaware of how long this ‘mission’ would last.
This same year I got in contact with a young woman called Kathryn Bertine, an ex pro figure skater and former pro long distance Triathlete, who was now working as a journalist for ESPN in the USA, she was In search of a nation to adopt her to complete the most amazing sporting mission. ESPN had chosen her to discover what it takes to qualify as an Olympian, after trying numerous other sports Kathryn settled on cycling, but having just missed out on a place on the US team, ESPN said that it did not have to be within the US, Kathryn issued an appeal and I answered.
From this inauspicious beginning began an amazing journey that has continued to this day, with Kathryn representing SKN at our first Cycling World Championships in Varese, Italy in 2008, I was on a new learning curve, I knew we could not win, but we could certainly make our presence felt.
2009/2013 – The Nevis triathlon was growing in stature and our global cycling presence was going to get a huge boost, following on from 2008, I raised the funds, secured accommodation and took a team of 4 athletes, (two of them from Nevis on their first trip to Europe) to compete at the Cycling World Championships in Mendrisio, Switzerland. It was an amazing experience as our uniforms alone gained us a huge local fan base and drew the attention of the worlds cycling press. Kathryn played her part by bringing an ESPN film crew to SKN to film her training with her team on her new adopted homeland and collecting cycling materials up in the US to be sent down for us to use in our junior program.
2010 was a huge year for my swimming ‘mission’, having done all the research and contacted the regional an international bodies for swimming I was able to have the newly created SKN Swimming Federation recognized by FINA, the world governing body, and was able to attend my first regional CCCAN swim meet increasing my education in this new sport.
In 2011 after I had narrowly missed out on the opportunity to bring a Half-Ironman to Nevis, I was introduced to the Monaco based TriStar group, and after flying to Paris, sold them the idea of hosting their first event outside of Europe on the tiny island of Nevis, a new era of longer distance triathlon was starting, with the first TriStar111Nevis being successfully completed in November of that year. Part of the package I negotiated with TriStar was to have Chris ‘Macca’ McCormack at the inaugural event; this has proved to be a boon, as he also fell in love with the island and despite the demise of TriStar Chris returned to Nevis in November 2013 with his own brand of triathlon the MaccaX Nevis Triathlon.
It has been an exhilarating ride as I have engaged in these ‘fringe’ sports, I have won many medals and trophies as an athlete, I have coached and led many young people into these wonderful sports, I have developed events for the benefit of the people of Nevis, and tried my best to represent my country as positively as possible.
I continue to promote sporting events here on Nevis as part of my contribution to our general tourism product, one of the key events is the Nevis to St Kitts Cross Channel Swim, a 4km (2.5 mile) open water swim which will celebrate 13 years in 2015, the 2014 event attracted over 200 swimmers and has become one of the ‘must do’ open water events in the region, as well as attracting interest from the rest of the swimming world. I started this swim to celebrate the life of one of our early club members Bente Weber, who was sadly taken from us by cancer, and although the swim has grown and developed the spirit of the event remains giving young and old, expert and novice the chance to take on this amazing challenge, I know Bente would be proud.
Over the last 8 years I have taken on a very personal journey as I learnt new skills as an ITU Triathlon official, in 2013 I refereed the ITU Long Distance World Championships in France, the European Championships in Turkey, and this same year I was selected to referee the ITU Triathlon event at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow. I was then asked to referee at the Edmonton ITU World Championships grand finale in September, where I also captained the SKN triathlon team, a first for the federation. In Edmonton I also took an exam to improve my officiating skill set and was rewarded by being given the chance to officiate the 2015 ITU Barbados Pan American Cup as chief referee (TD).
The past year 2015 has been a very important one for me as I have achieved a couple of milestones, the first of which was to receive my level 2 official certification from the ITU, one of only 3 in the English speaking Caribbean, and taking the largest triathlon team ever (7 athletes including myself) to the Triathlon Age Group World Championships in Chicago. I also have completed the very personal mission of completing my first full Ironman, 3.8km swim, 190km bike and a marathon 42km run, which I did in Cozumel in November giving me the distinction of being the first male athlete to complete this iconic competition. In the swimming I had built a very good relationship with the President of UANA and managed to interest him in our particular plight here in the federation, having explained how the effects of the MV Chistena disaster had profoundly affected everyone’s attitude to the sea, he negotiated with the preferred pool manufacturer of FINA to create a model for a 50m ‘floating Pool’ that suited our purposes and our meagre budget. I was getting good at building relationships and had interested enough private persons in this new project that it almost happened!!! the idea just fell at the last hurdle, it was a real body blow for me and set me back quite a bit.
2016 was an important year for athletes, it was Olympic year, and as important for Triathlon officials globally, it was my dream to go, unfortunately I was not selected, but at least I was considered, not bad for one of the tiniest nations on earth. On the plus side, all of my efforts to educate myself about swimming and making the effort to attend events regionally and abroad paid off. This was also the year I regained my enthusiasm for the swimming project and returned to original idea of building an ‘in ground’ competition pool for the federation, having built upon the relationship with Myrtha Pools since 2015 and meeting with them at international swimming conferences and meets. It would be much more expensive but would tick all of the boxes regarding the development of a ‘grass roots to greatness’ approach towards this wonderful sport. I decided to fly to Panama and take a FINA coaches certification course, it was in Spanish but I was able to get through with some out of class help from the course leader, thus I became the first FINA qualified coach of the federation. With this new knowledge I negotiated with FINA to host SKN’s first of 3 annual instructor courses which was held at Oualie Beach Hotel on Nevis, and we had 11 persons attend the course that was strictly focused on how to teach children, it was immensely productive and from this 4 separate swimming programs were started
This year was the 15th edition of the Cross Channel Swim, and we almost broke the participant record, with 205 entrants, unfortunately, due to very dangerous weather conditions I was forced to reroute the swim along the Nevis coastline, a 5km challenge that people enjoyed despite their disappointment. In April i was again the Technical Delegate for the Barbados ITU sprint triathlon, which was an honor and privilege for me as athletes vied for the last Olympic points on offer.
My personal athletic endeavors continue as I get back into the swing of competing, I represented SKN at the Caribbean Championships in May, taking third place in my age group despite having an awful swim leg., it was great to be back on a podium, and I have decided to do some swim races this year as I nurture a knee injury.
2017 turned out to be far more exciting than I could have expected, I got to go to Cuba twice, having been invited to officiate at their 3rd ITU triathlon event in February and once for a cycling congress, in March we had the 16th Cross Channel swim breaking all kinds of records. We had 5 Olympians competing, along with a world champion age group Ironman, arguably the most decorated swimmer in the world plus multiple high profile triathletes and US master swimming champs, I had included Special Olympics once more, this time in a relay format to make the crossing, the first time anywhere in the world!! We had record attendees; the course record was broken by more than 4 minutes, a very special year indeed.
In April I returned to Barbados as the TD, with the largest field of athletes male and female the event ever had, then I headed to Miami to race in their Open Water swim event, I competed in the 800mtr and came 4th in my age group, my first actual swim race since the channel swim back in 2001/2 . In May I found out I have been selected to officiate at the 2018 Commonwealth Games triathlon event in the Gold Coast Australia, a huge honor for myself and my country, plus I will be officiating the ITU triathlon World Championships in Rotterdam in September and the ETU European Triathlon Championships in October in Turkey.
My latest personal racing efforts included the ‘Flowers 1 Mile Sea Swim’ that took place in the crystal clear waters of the Cayman Islands, an amazing event that saw 1100 participants take to the waters, I finished in the middle of the field with a time of 38 minutes, I will take that. I had also taken on the task of training 10 special Olympic athletes in an endurance program that was to prepare them to compete at the SO World Games in Abu Dhabi in 2019, and included Open Water swimming, cycling and triathlon, which was the newest sport for Special Olympics.
2018 was indeed interesting but not all for good reasons, the highlight was that I was again selected to be an official for Triathlon at the Commonwealth Games to be held in the Gold Coast, Australia, an amazing experience all round that also gave an opportunity to link up with one of my former SKN athletes who now lived in Sydney. I was back racing in earnest and had a good result in the Antigua Rohrman triathlon, the Cross Channel Swim was a huge success with record numbers, I podiumed again at the Caribbean Championships, so I decided I was going to train for my next Ironman!!! Sadly, it was not to be, I was on a training ride with the SO athletes and got knocked off my bike, was badly injured, no more Ironman for me!! The plus was that the SO athletes were coming on very well, and I had been selected to be the top official (TD) for the Special Olympics World Games triathlon event in Abu Dhabi, a huge honor for me and an awesome showing for SO SKN as we also had two athletes training to compete in this first time event.
2019 started with a bang, I attended the Special Olympics World Games as TD for the very first SO Triathlon, and represented SO SKN as the cycling team coach, we had taken 2 OW swimmers, 2 Triathletes and 2 cyclists from the 3 yr endurance training program, bringing home 7 of the 17 medals SO SKN won over there. The Cross Channel Swim was again huge with records broken both for the fastest time and for the number of competitors attending, plus I had been selected to officiate at the Pan American Games Triathlon event that was held in Lima, Peru, another incredible experience. In swimming, I was finally able to get an athlete to represent SKN at a Swimming World Championships, this was in Korea, the very first time our national flag was flown at such a high level event, this led the way to medals at the OECS Championships in St Lucia and enabled SKN to apply to FINA for funding of a swimming development project. Other triathlon highlights were taking SKN athletes to compete at the Age Group World Championships in Lausanne, Switzerland whilst attending the ITU Congress, then officiating at the Paratriathlon World Cup in Alanya Turkey. The year was rounded out by finding out I had finally achieved my personal Olympic dream, as I was selected to be an official at the Paralympic Games Triathlon event in Tokyo 2020.
2020 has been a year dominated by Covid 19, but prior to this I was able to assist with the early development of the ‘Swim to Win’ program, I competed at my first triathlon in quite a while in Antigua, and was fine until it came time to run! and very importantly found out we had been granted the funds to build SKN’s very first dedicated swimming facility, a 25m in-water pool, which we plan to have finished by the end of August. The saddest part for me is that because of Covid the Olympics has been deferred until 2021, in the meanwhile we are making great strides with swimming, having recently put on an event to honor the 50th year since the MV Christena disaster, we had 4 swimmers make the 9 km swim from the wreck site to Pinney’s Beach. I was recently informed that I had been selected to be the TD for the Special Olympics USA Games Triathlon event in 2022, The adventure continues.
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Athlete Fact Sheet
|Year of Birth||1957|
|Place of Birth||Birmingham|
|Residence||Cotton Ground, Saint Kitts and Nevis|
|Sponsors||B-mobile, Carino nevis|
|Hobbies||sports, Reading, Music, Dancing|