Butterfield eyes Tokyo after relay achievement
Bermuda’s feel-good fifth in the mixed team triathlon relay has prompted Tyler Butterfield to have a change of heart.
It is difficult to imagine a more selfless athlete than Butterfield, who thought he had represented Bermuda for the final time at the 2014 Glasgow Games before switching his focus to the Ironman-distance races.
He only returned to international competition so Bermuda could debut in the event, despite the explosive format going against his body’s natural skill set.
But with a renewed passion for the sport, and with the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo around the corner, Butterfield is braced for an exciting finish to his career.
“The mixed team relay was the reason I came here because [Bermuda] had never done it before,” said Butterfield, who performed the final leg in Saturday’s race.
“Because we did so well, I said to the team, ‘Look, if there are other races, give me enough notice’ … the Pan Am Games next year [in Lima] has it. That actually gets two teams to the Olympics. It may also have a slightly weaker field than the Commonwealths.”
With two years to prepare for Tokyo, where the event will be included for the first time, Butterfield feels the foursome of him, Flora Duffy, Tyler Smith and Erica Hawley will only get stronger.
Bermuda finished just 1min 16sec behind third-place New Zealand at Southport beachfront, with Australia winning an absorbing see-saw battle with England to claim gold.
“To come fifth is amazing and Tyler and Erica are only getting faster,” said the 35-year-old father of two. “It was uplifting and encouraging about what could happen in the future. Obviously there are a lot of ifs because we don’t have a back-up if one of us gets injured.
“The third-place team, New Zealand, I know their high-performance director and I know what they did to get it. They even had special running shoes custom-made just for that race. We just ran in the same shoes we used in the individual two days before. It may not be an individual medal, but it’s a big thing.”
Colorado-based Butterfield, now coached by three-times Xterra champion Julie Dibens, believes that Bermuda could have been closer to the podium had Duffy raced the first leg.
“I still think we probably would have got fifth but we could have been under 30 seconds [off bronze],” said Butterfield, who would opt out of the individual race at the Pan Am Games and the Olympics, should Bermuda qualify.
“Both me and Tyler said we could feel it. The Wales team, who we narrowly beat, both of their males didn’t compete in the individual. They rested them and, again, they were looking for third place. Third place was up for grabs.”
Another factor drawing Butterfield towards the mixed team relay is his growing disillusionment with the Hawaii Ironman after successive disappointments in the past two years. That and the fact he wildly exceeded his expectations, his bike and run being faster than Canada’s Matthew Sharpe and New Zealand’s Taylor Reid.
“I didn’t expect that,” said Butterfield, a former professional cyclist. “Even if Erica, Tyler and Flora got us a lead, I didn’t think I was of the calibre to handle the pace on the run.”
Butterfield, who came eighteenth in the individual race, added: “The last couple of years in Ironman I’ve lost a little bit of passion after two bad years in Kona [a DNF and 44th]. I have half of my points to qualify for Kona this year, but I don’t really want to qualify and have a bad one.
“Even if I qualify, if I don’t feel I’ll have a good one, the possibility of not letting someone else have my position … The hard thing is when I came fifth [in 2015] I didn’t feel good the night before. You never really know.”
Tomorrow Athletics: Tyrone Smith, long jump final, 7.30am* Tre Houston and Kyle Webb, 200 semi-finals, 7.50am*. Mountain biking: Flora Duffy, women’s cross-country, 10.30pm.
Thursday Athletics: Tre Houston and Kyle Webb, 200 final, 9am*
Saturday Tyler Butterfield: men’s marathon, 7.15pm
*Should athletes qualify