Butterfield brings stardust to championships
Tyler Butterfield, the professional triathlete, has chosen the Catlin Bermuda National Triathlon Championships tomorrow to launch his 2016 Olympic qualifying bid.
The Male Athlete of the Year is an overwhelming favourite to claim overall honours and, barring a catastrophe, should comfortably lead the field across the line at Clearwater Beach as he sets his sights on representing Bermuda in Rio Janeiro, Brazil in another two years' time.
“This race I am coming back for is the first step in trying to qualify for Rio,” said Butterfield, who is also using the championships as a warm-up for an upcoming World Cup event. “I am going to race as hard as I can and it should be a good race on Sunday.”
There are also other incentives for Butterfield to put his best foot forward among a field that also includes Jonathan Herring, the defending champion, and Tucker Murphy, Bermuda's top performer at last year's Island Games and the Island's sole athlete at the Winter Olympics in Sochi in February.
“This race actually has ITU [International Triathlon Union] points, so it is a race I need to do well in to get points to get me in other races,” he said.
Butterfield put Bermuda firmly on the world map after storming to victory this year at the Abu Dhabi International Triathlon in Dubai.
Herring, who will fly Bermuda's flag this summer at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, along with Butterfield, played down his chances of retaining his title — and for good reason.
“I had a pretty bad back injury, so I was out for a good five, six weeks,” he said. “I am just using Sunday as sort of a diagnostic test to try and figure out what is wrong with me.”
Back to defend her women's title is Karen Smith, who got her season off to a flyer after claiming age-group honours at the Los Cabos Ironman Triathlon.
Like Butterfield, Smith is also making the transition from the longer to the shorter triathlon distance.
“I typically focus on the longer Ironman distance races and I guess it is easier to go from Ironman distance down to Olympic than to go from Olympic to Ironman,” she said. “But, that being said, it is a different type of training and I have really been focusing on Ironman for the beginning of this year. Then I had nice, long break coming off my Ironman at the end of March.
“So it is has just been a couple of weeks of getting back into some structure and training. It is just really going to be a test on Sunday to see where I am at. You just do not know if I am going to be going off of base fitness or if I have something in the tank, so I am going to give it my best and we will see.”
Other top contenders in the women's field include Laurie Orchard, the Island Games bronze medal-winner, who finished runner-up to Smith in this event last year.
Tomorrow's individual and team championships, which get under way at 8am, consist of a 1.5-kilometre swim, 40km bike and 10km run.