Butterfield realistic about ambitions
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Tyler Butterfield, the Bermuda triathlete, has moved to dampen any unrealistic expectations of him in Glasgow after admitting that his best will not be good enough for a top-ten finish.
Tomorrow he competes in his third — and almost certainly last — Commonwealth Games at Strathclyde Country Park, in Lanarkshire, along with team-mates Tucker Murphy, Jonathan Herring and Flora Duffy.
Butterfield, whose 2013 was the best year of his career, has carried that scintillating form into this season, winning the Abu Dhabi International Triathlon in March, his maiden major long-course win.
His skill levels are less suited, however, to sprint-course races such as what he will encounter in Scotland — a 1,500-metre open-water swim, 40-kilometre road cycle and a 10km run — and would therefore consider a top-20 finish as a podium place of sorts.
“I’ll not be in medal contention — not even top ten — it’s more like the top 20 that I’m hoping for,” Butterfield said. “I’m honest, and the last thing I want is for people to think, ‘I thought Tyler had a good chance, what went wrong?’
“I’m very realistic and knowing my limits is one of my strengths. I’m more comfortable at the Ironman distance and I’m not pretending to be someone I’m not.”
Having turned 31 in February, Butterfield believes that his future lies in the longer Ironman distance rather than the sprints. He said that he is merely hoping for a solid performance in tomorrow’s race and intends on soaking up every last drop of atmosphere in what could well be his final outing at a major Games.
“The Commonwealth and Olympic Games allow us athletes from the smaller countries a chance to be part of something very special,” said Butterfield, who will miss the opening ceremony at Celtic Park to prepare for his race.
“I don’t mind being the underdog; in fact, I enjoy it. It’s always an honour to represent my country and I never want to let Bermuda down. All I can do is try my and best and see where that takes me.
“There’s less pressure at the Commonwealths than the Olympics, so I’m a bit more relaxed and it’s fun to spend time in the Athletes’ Village and experience that side of the Games.”
Although Butterfield has played down his chances of achieving anything out of the ordinary in Glasgow, he has taken crumbs of comfort from suggestions that the cycle route will be particularly challenging.
A former professional cyclist with Slipstream Sports, a leading American team, Butterfield posted the fastest cycle time at the London Olympics, and admits that he is most effective as a triathlete when on two wheels.
“It’s my first time competing in Glasgow and I’ve heard the cycle route is very challenging,” said Butterfield, who finished fourteenth in the triathlon at the 2002 Games in Manchester and eleventh in the cycling road race four years later in Melbourne.
“I’ve had a lot of the other guys saying that the bike will suit me, which of course I’m happy to hear. My plan is to try and reach up with that second group on the bike.
“However, the level of the top triathletes in Glasgow is just mind-blowing. Alistair and Jonathan Brownlee [of England] are just a class to themselves.”
The success of the Brownlee brothers has triggered a triathlon boom, particularly in the United Kingdom, with Butterfield tipping Alistair, the older sibling, to add to the Olympic title that he won in London.
“Alistair has identified the Commonwealths as the key race of his year and is coming into form at the right time, having won the recent Triathlon World Series event in Hamburg,” said Butterfield, who will compete at Ironman World Championships in Kona, Hawaii, in October — the priority race of his season.
“All eyes will be on Alistair and Jonathan [who finished third in Hamburg], although Richard Murray, a South African, did beat Alistair at the World Triathlon Series race in London in May.
“Having two brothers at the very pinnacle of sport is pretty neat and they have certainly helped grow triathlon.”
Butterfield still harbours hopes of qualifying for the 2016 Rio Olympics in his quest to become a three-times Olympian, having competed at Athens 2004 and London 2012.
He admits, however, that spending two years toiling for International Triathlon Union points is no certainty to reaching the “greatest show on earth”.
Butterfield said: “I said to my wife the other day that this could be my last big Games and that’s why I’ll be looking to make the most of it.
“Hopefully I can make Rio but the better I get at the longer distance, the harder it is to mix it with the sprint distance.”
The women’s triathlon, featuring Duffy, starts at 11am local time tomorrow, while Butterfield, Tucker and Herring will begin racing at 3pm.