Butterfield sacrifices all for Kona pursuit

  • Lived the dream: Butterfield, a two-times Olympian, on his way to finishing 34th at London 2012 in his final appearance at an Olympic Games

    Lived the dream: Butterfield, a two-times Olympian, on his way to finishing 34th at London 2012 in his final appearance at an Olympic Games

  • Tyler Butterfield has committed to long-course triathlon (Photograph by FinisherPix)

    Tyler Butterfield has committed to long-course triathlon (Photograph by FinisherPix)

Health matters make for slow start to 2015

Tyler Butterfield is still struggling to recover fully from recent illness and may not compete in his first triathlon until the end of next month.

Recent tests show Butterfield was carrying a parasite to go with his other health issues at the end of 2014, including a bad back during the Ironman World Championships in Kona, Hawaii, which forced him to pull out. After that he suffered a pulled calf muscle and then a stomach bug, which hit both him and his wife Nikki last month.

“Unfortunately, I trained very hard into Kona Ironman World Championships and had a great prep with no signs of injury or illness,” Butterfield said. “However, I had a bad back in the race, then a pulled calf in November, and had a stomach bug in December.

“So the end of 2014 was a bit of a disaster. In late December, I got some tests done after the stomach bug knocked me around longer than [wife] Nikki, who also had it at the same time over the Bahrain Challenge race weekend and the week following.

“However, after ten days I was still struggling. I found through the tests, I also had a parasite to add to the combination. So after ten days on antibiotics I am just getting back to normal base training.”

In his first race since his Ironman disappointment, Butterfield finished ninth at the Noosa Triathlon in Australia in early November. The 31-year-old competed in a quality elite field and completed the course in 1hr 51min 6sec.

Both Tyler and Nikki had planned to compete in the Ironman 70.3 Auckland next weekend, but Nikki has stepped back from racing at the highest level to focus on her young family.

“My first race will possibly be the Challenge Dubai on February 27 or Brazil 70.3 on April 5,” Butterfield said. “The start to 2015 will be slow and maybe the bad end to 2014 was partly due to a parasite. It is hard to tell how long I had the parasite; maybe only a few weeks, maybe a few months.

“But it is nice to have some time now to build fitness. My main races in the first half of 2015 will be more in April, May.”

Butterfield’s plans could also include the Appleby Bermuda Half Marathon Derby in May, which will be run from St George’s to Hamilton this year. He has won the race for the past two years.

Tyler Butterfield has given up on his dream of competing at another Olympic Games.

The short and long-distance triathlon sensation made clear yesterday that his focus will be on the longer form of the sport, with a view to conquering the “holy grail” — the Ironman World Championship in Kona.

The 31-year-old’s announcement coincides with wife Nikki’s decision to leave the professional ranks, after a brief return, to focus on their young family, which includes daughter Savana, 3, and son Walker, 11 months.

As a result, Butterfield will forgo all related funding and sponsorship deals that were tied to him representing Bermuda on the international stage.

“It’s been an absolute privilege to represent Bermuda at two Olympics, three Commonwealth Games, two Pan American Games, Small Island Games and Caribbean Championship races,” said Butterfield as he paid tribute to the International Olympic Committee, Bermuda Olympic Association, Bermuda Triathlon Association and the International Triathlon Union, whose primary remit is the short-course triathlon.

“I’m extremely grateful for the support I’ve received. I’ve made this choice with much difficulty. While I’ve been tempted to continue on in hopes of flying the Bermudian flag at the Rio Olympics, I recognise that in the big picture of my career, I would be spreading myself too thin.

“To get the best out of myself as an athlete in pursuit of my triathlon goals, in particular with hopes of an exceptional performance at the Ironman World Championship in Kona, I need to apply myself to long-course training and racing 100 per cent.”

Butterfield last appeared for Bermuda last summer at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, where he finished nineteenth in the Olympic-distance triathlon. But it is over the 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile cycle and 26.2-mile run that he wants his name etched in stone, carrying on from the legacy left by his father, Jim Butterfield, a pioneer for triathlon racing in Bermuda.

Butterfield Sr finished seventh at the Hawaii Ironman triathlon in 1981 and his son emulated that feat at the modern version of the event, the Ironman World Championship, at the end of 2013. Butterfield Jr, after having started 2014 so wonderfully with victory at the Abu Dhabi Triathlon last March, made the rest of the year a pursuit of improving on his father’s finish in Kona.

Along the way, he successfully defended his title in the Bermuda Day Half-Marathon but the year ended disappointingly when a back problem forced him to withdraw during the cycle phase of the Ironman World Championship in Kona last October.

He hopes to pass on the torch to any number of promising triathletes that Bermuda may produce, not least the impressive Tyler Smith, who with Erica Hawley performed so admirably at the Youth Olympics in Nanjing, China, last August.

“I hope the funding I’m forgoing passes on to the next generation of up-and-comers,” Butterfield said. “I look forward to following their progress.”

Coinciding with Butterfield’s announcement, his wife Nikki has decided to step back from the professional triathlon ranks to devote time fully to her family.

Nikki made a brief return to sport late last year after the birth of the couple’s second child. Soon after, she was on the podium again, finishing third at the Ironman 70.3 Mandurah Australian Pro Championship.

“I don’t want to miss out on these younger years with our kids,” she said.

“I can never get this time back, and I miss them so much when we’re apart and I’m off training. I needed to go through this process to remind myself I’m not a mum who can compartmentalise the way you have to in order to do it all.”

The former under-23 world champion also wants to drive her husband on to meet his goals as a professional — their final performance together was the Challenge Bahrain triathlon last month, when both failed to finish the run. “I always said there’s no point in both Tyler and I being average,” Nikki said. “Better for one of us to reach our full potential — and Tyler still has so much passion for the sport. Plus, he’s the real Ironman talent in the family and stands to be a contender in Kona. I really enjoy the support role, helping him to stay focused on triathlon while keeping our home running smoothly, cooking healthy meals for our family and creating engaging activities and learning opportunities for our kids.

“When I was training I was too exhausted to put as much effort as I wanted into the home front, and as much as I love triathlon, being a mum is my number one passion and I want to give my all to our family.”

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Published Jan 9, 2015 at 8:00 am (Updated Jan 9, 2015 at 10:49 am)

Butterfield sacrifices all for Kona pursuit

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