Athlete


Date Inducted: 08 Dec 2011
Sport: Triathlon
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Greg Welch OAM - Triathlon

For a decade Greg Welch was the world’s dominant triathlete and iron man. He won four world titles (1990 Triathlon; 1993 Duathlon; 1994 Ironman and 1996 Long Distance Triathlon), multiple Triathlon World Cups (1996-99).   He was three times US champion and twice Japan champion. After being in peak form after winning the US pro championships in 1999, a heart condition robbed him of his chance to win inaugural gold when the triathlon was introduced to the Olympic Games at Sydney in 2000. He continues to serve the sport as coach and commentator.

The Beginning

Greg Welch  (b 1964,  Campsie NSW) took up cross country running when he was a 14 year  old  but when he decided to add the disciplines required to be  trialthlete he faced real challenges, particularly in swimming (his coach described him as ”swimming as though he had a bag of bricks tied to his ankles). In his first triathlon, a local event in 1985, he finished near the rear of the field. Typically though, he persevered, giving himself a punishing swimming schedule, and in 1990 won the World Olympic distance championship in his first outing as a professional.

The Record

World Champion: 1990 World Triathlon Championships
World Champion 1993 World Duathlon Championships
World Champion: 1994 Ironman Triathlon World Championship
World Champion: 1996 World Long Distance Triathlon Championships
Named 1994 Triathlete-of-the-year
Named 1994 Sports Star of the Year: Triathlete & Competitor Magazines
Named 1994 Sports Star of the Year: Caltex Gold Oscar for NSW, Australia
Two-time Champion: 1992 & 1994 Ironman/Japan triathlon
Multiple-time winner Triathlon World Cup (1996-99)
Winner 1997 World Nature Games Triathlon
Winner 1997 & 92 Escape From Alcatraz Triathlon
U.S. Pro Champion: 1992, 93 & 99 U.S Pro Triathlon Championships
National champion: 1992 Australian Sprint Triathlon Championships
2nd place: 1991 Ironman Triathlon World Championships
Bronze medal: 1990 Commonwealth Games Triathlon
3rd place: 1989 & 1996 Ironman Triathlon World Championships
Runner-up: 1994, 95 & 96 Triathlon Grand Prix Series

Retirement

It was a tragedy that a man who had commanded his body to perform such Herculean feats for more than a decade should finally have his greatest prize snatched from him by an illness that even his iron will could not defy.

Greg had worked assiduously with other triathletes and sporting organisations to have the discipline included in the Olympic calendar and there was jubilation when it was included in the program for the 2000 Sydney Olympics.

The stage appeared set for Greg Welch’s finest hour. In 1999, he was at the peak of his form after winning the World Cup for the third successive year and he had every reason to believe that he could engrave his name for posterity as the first Men’s Olympic Trialthlon champion - and do so in front of hundreds of thousands of cheering fans in his home city.

Then he was diagnosed with ventricular tachycardia and the nine open heart surgery operations that followed put paid to any thoughts of future competition.

Impact on the Sport

Although the ventricular tachycardia denied Greg Welch the chance of Olympic gold, his place in the pantheon of Australian triathletes is secure – not just for his athletic success but for the role he played in popularising the sport in Australia.

His articulate enthusiasm won devotees while he was still a competitor but became an even greater asset for the sport after his retirement from competition in his roles as commentator, advisor and coach.

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When considering the stature of an athlete or for that matter any person, I set great store in certain qualities which I believe to be essential in addition to skill. They are that the person conducts his of her life with dignity, with integrity, courage, and perhaps most of all, with modesty. These virtues are totally compatible with pride, ambition, and competitiveness.