Throwback Thursday: The charismatic Chris McCormack
Chris McCormack was a talented junior runner when he caught the triathlon bug. After watching footage of Australian’s competing overseas, he decided it was his sporting future. The only issue? According to Multisport Dreaming, he had to learn how to swim competitively first, and while he competed in duathlon first it took him five years to actually attempt a triathlon.
Despite the delay, McCormack was hooked. After a good season in Australia he finished fourth at the ITU Junior World Championships in 1994. But he decided to go to University before taking his triathlon career full time. He graduated in October 1995 and in 1996, flew to Europe to chase his dream. Just one year later McCormack had his most successful year on the ITU circuit.
McCormack recorded a number of top-10 finishes in the ITU World Cup series, and then capped that off with one of the races of his career at the 1997 ITU World Championships in Perth.
In a strong Australian team that included Miles Stewart, Greg Welch, Brad Beven and Greg Bennett, and a wider field that included international stars like Simon Lessing and Hamish Carter, McCormack wasn’t seen as one of the favourites. But he threw down an impressive run from the chase pack. In a field of highly credentialed athletes, McCormack surged to the front from transition and stayed there. Australian Triathlete magazine called it the surprise of the decade.
McCormack’s status as one of the most popular triathletes derives from his gregarious personality, and it was on display in Perth. He celebrated so enthusiastically that an Australian newspaper labelled him ‘an emotional wreck,’ reporting that he collapsed at the finish line, cried and then hugged everyone in reach.
“This is the happiest day of my life. I didn’t think I could do it,” McCormack told the press. “Those other guys are immortals. I am just this young guy coming through. When I saw that line I was crying. It was the best day of my life.”
That ITU World Championship title was enough to bump McCormack into the ITU World Cup Series winner’s title for that year, the first and only time that a man had won both the ITU World Championship title and the World Cup series title in the same year. The emotion, forthrightness and enthusiasm McCormack showed that day continued to make him a favourite with the sports press across his career.
While McCormack made a successful shift into long distance racing, including two victories at Kona, he made a brief return to standard distance ITU racing in 2011. It was an attempt to fulfil a dream he hadn’t accomplished, racing at an Olympic Games. While it ultimately was not successful, Macca’s return to ITU was embraced by fellow triathletes and fans alike, a measure of his popularity within the sport.
ITU Career: 1993 - Present
ITU World Champion (1997)
4 ITU World Cup wins
ITU World Cup Series winner (1997)
ITU Long Distance World Champion (2012)
Throwback Thursday: The smashing Karen SmyersAs an athlete, coach and Hall of Fame inductee, Karen Smyers has experienced the ups and downs of being a professional triathlete. Get an insider look at her career in this week's Throwback Thursday.08:02 - 20 Nov, 2014
Throwback Thursday: The scrappy Greg WelchGreg Welch may be small in stature but his depth of athleticism was immeasurable. With a personality bigger than he was and an iron will to boot, Welch etched his name in the history books. Read up on his career.01:14 - 13 Nov, 2014
Thursday Throwback: The amazing Mark AllenITU's very first male World Champion, Mark Allen's triathlon story is one of perseverance and triumph, speed and endurance, road blocks and redemption.10:09 - 06 Nov, 2014
Thursday Throwback: Emma Carney's will to winEmma Carney burst onto the ITU circuit in 1994, surprising the field by cruising to her first ITU World Championship in her debut world title race. Today we take a look back at the career that got her inducted into the Hall of Fame.12:49 - 30 Oct, 2014
Throwback Thursday: 25 memorable momentsIt's Thursday, which has become universally synonymous with blasts from the past. So, since its both #TBT and our 25th anniversary this year, here's a look back 25 memorable moments over the years.02:28 - 10 Apr, 2014
Athletes throw their support behind Team TriathlonSome of the world's best triathletes show their enthusiasm for Team Triathlon at the official race press conference in Lausanne, ahead of the 2011 ITU Team Triathlon World Championships this Sunday.04:25 - 19 Aug, 2011