by Barrie Shepley; Balboa Press
Barrie Shepley, who did it all from coaching to announcing in triathlon, played a key role in those brash early days in the 1990s when a group of driven dreamers had the audacious ambition of setting up a national training centre in Victoria.
The eventual result was gold and silver medals by Simon Whitfield in the 2000 Sydney and 2008 Beijing Olympics, respectively and multiple Ironman Hawaii world championships won by Peter Reid and Lori Bowden.
Victoria proved the ideal launching pad because of sporting supports established by hosting the 1994 Commonwealth Games, before triathlon was even in those Games or the Olympics, and because it was, by Canadian standards, a mild-port-of-call which allowed for year-long training even through winter if you didn’t mind training in the rain.
Shepley eventually returned to coaching in Ontario but his book, Chasing Greatness, chronicles that crucial period on the Island and many other eras of the sport of triathlon in Canada.
Shepley had a front row seat to it all. He was Canada’s first Olympic triathlon coach on that glorious morning, in the shadow of the Sydney Opera House, when the previously little-known Whitfield seemed to burst out of nowhere down the home stretch to claim the first-ever men’s Olympic gold medal in the sport.
At it since 1991, it is estimated Shepley has coached more than 500 competitors to championships large and small, from local races to the Olympics, Pan Am Games and Ironman Hawaii world championships. His broadcasting calls became a staple of the sport on Canadian television whenever it was featured at world championships or multi-sport events.
Shepley chronicles it all, along with life lessons learned along the way, in an engaging read for those interested in not only triathlon but Canadian amateur sport in general.