Butterfield must believe he can be a winner
Elite Female Triathlete of the Year: Flora Duffy
Elite Male Triathlete of the Year: Tyler Butterfield
Female Triathlete of the Year: Martina Olcheski-Bell
Male Triathlete of the Year: Tyler Smith
Junior Female Triathlete of the Year: Amber Simons
Junior Male Triathlete of the Year: Blake Oliveira
Best New Female Triathlete: Rebecca Shepherd
Best New Male Triathlete: Chris Fosker
Most Improved Female Triathlete: Erica Hawley
Most Improved Male Triathlete: Timothy Patterson
The Peter Grayson Special Achievement Award: Flora Duffy
Jim Butterfield Long Service Award: Duncan Scott
John Buchanan Club Person of the Year: Janet Harrison
Self-belief is the only factor preventing Tyler Butterfield from a podium finish at the Hawaii Ironman World Championships, according to Greg Welch, a former race winner.
Welch is widely-regarded as one of the greatest triathletes of all-time, having won the sport’s equivalent of the “Grand Slam” — the ITU World Championships, Duathlon World Championships, the Long-Course World Championships and the Hawaii Ironman.
Having followed Butterfield’s career closely, commentating on his superb win at last year’s Abu Dhabi International Triathlon, Welch considers the Bermudian to be among the long-distance elite.
Should Butterfield manage to fully embrace that view of himself, Welch believes there is no reason why he cannot improve upon his scintillating fifth-place finish at last month’s Hawaii Ironman.
“Tyler has been around for a long, long time,” said Welch, who outpaced Kona legend Dave Scott to became the first non-American to win the Hawaii Ironman in 1994.
“His race in Kona was nothing short of amazing and was tactically perfect for him.
“I think he’s ready to go. I think he’s ready to aim at the top and he needs to believe in himself.
“The only thing holding him back is knowing that he actually belongs right up there.”
Welch, who was the guest speaker at the Bermuda Triathlon Association awards ceremony at Riddell’s Bay Golf and Country Club on Saturday night, believes Butterfield should no longer simply be aiming for top ten or top-five finishes.
At 32, Butterfield is now in the ideal mind-body state and Welch suspects the two-times Olympian is capable of even more than he realises as he enters the peak of his career.
“I think Tyler goes into a race knowing that he’s not going for the win but for a top five,” said the Australian.
“I think he’s got to put that behind him and go for the win or go for the top three. I really think he can do it.”
A firm believer of mind over matter, Welch feels that the mental side of the sport has the greatest impact on how a triathlete performs, particularly at the Hawaii Ironman.
“[The mental side] is a huge part of it,” he said. “The back end of the race is where the mental part really takes over.
“Nutrition is a big part of it throughout the race, but coming to the finish line and knowing that you can put a run together is key.
“The top three every year [in Kona] are those who hang in there and put together a good run. If Tyler believes in himself and gives himself the opportunity to do that, I really think he can.”
Like Butterfield, Flora Duffy has also enjoyed her best-ever season, defending her Xterra World Championship title in Maui this month, and winning the bronze medal at this summer’s Pan American Games in Toronto.
Considering the extent of both athletes’ achievements, Welch believes triathlon in Bermuda is in the midst of a “golden age”.
“It’s very unique for an Island this size to have two triathletes like Tyler and Flora,” said Welch, who attended the BTA awards ceremony along with his wife Sian, a former top American triathlete, and their two daughters.
“This place creates athletes and there are a lot of kids coming through. You’ve got Tyler Smith and you can see that he’s got a bit of momentum going. He’s a great talent and may go on to do some special things.”
Welch believes the best is yet to come from Duffy, and has backed her to challenge for a medal at next summer’s Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro if the race unfolds in her favour.
“I really saw something different in Flora this year,” Welch said. “She’s a very strong swimmer, an exceptional cyclist and a great runner, but not the best.
“She’s now one of the girls they watch. If Flora and Lisa Nordén [a Swedish 2012 Olympic silver-medal winner] can get together and work at the Olympics, I’m sure they can both win a medal.”
Welch, who works as a sports marketing manager for Oakley, was favourite to win gold at the 2000 Olympics in his native Sydney, when he was forced into early retirement at the age of 35 because of a heart condition.
He was diagnosed with ventricular tachycardia — a very fast heartbeat caused by a malfunction in one of the ventricles — after suffering attacks while racing in Kona and underwent an incredible nine surgeries from 2001 to 2003 to stabilise his condition.
“I was ranked number one in the world, I had a heart condition, so I decided to call it a day,” said Welch, who finished second at the Hamilton ITU Triathlon World Cup on his only previous visit to the Island in 1997.
“The toughest thing was knowing I was favourite for the Olympics in my home town. I had to retire from the Olympic team.
“I’m happy with what I achieved, though, and winning the Hawaii Ironman was the pinnacle of my career.
“I rate it above the Olympics and I believe it’s the hardest one-day endurance event in the world.”