Any ordinary father of two in his late thirties would be hard-pressed to get up for a morning jog, but that’s definitely not the case of Simon Whitfield.
In his final tune up event before flying to London for the Summer Games, the 37-year-old from Victoria will hit the start line at the Toronto Triathlon Festival at 6:58 a.m. sharp.
The race will start Sunday at the edge of Lake Ontario on Toronto’s waterfront and continue along the Gardiner Expressway, moving north on the Don Valley Parkway, following two of the city’s major thoroughfares, which will be partially closed for the event.
“It sets up well for a London course that is flat and fast,” says Whitfield, who’s raced twice before on this year’s Olympic course. “It showcases London and Hyde Park extremely well.”
In London, Whitfield will be facing a 1500-metre swim, a 43-kilometre bike ride and a 10-kilometre run in his fourth Olympics, almost 12 years after he stunned the world to win a gold medal in the Sidney games.
Just a couple of weeks after being chosen Canada’s flag-bearer for Friday’s opening ceremonies at Olympic Stadium, Whitfield says life hasn’t changed much since then.
“I will be completely honest. It’s been train, train, train and focus, focus, focus,” says Whitfield. “I’m honoured to be the flag-bearer, but I’m doing also what I love to do, which is focus and train.”
After the gold in Sidney, Whitfield’s career took off. He won 14 World Cups, a Commonwealth Games gold in 2002 and an Olympic silver in Beijing in 2008. Whitfield has not stood on a podium since a World Cup victory in 2009, but he’s not letting that hold him back for London.
“My expectations are the same. I’m not being coy,” said Whitfield on Saturday at a press conference. He knows the competition is young and he’s not the same 25-year-old who collected gold in Sidney.
“Let’s be honest, there are two young British guys that are absolutely ready to rip up that course,” says Whitfield, referring to English brothers Alistair and Jonathan Brownlee. “All I can do is prepare, prepare, prepare.”
And he has been doing just that for the last three weeks in Hamilton, running alongside Canada’s marathoners Reid Coolsaet and Eric Gillis. He’s been taking his laps at a swimming pool in the McMaster University campus and riding with Olympic alternate Andrew Yorke.
That means Whitfield has been spending a lot of time away from his daughters, Pipa Katherine, 5, and Evelyn, 2. This time they too will be travelling to the Olympics, but in spite of that, Whitfield will continue his training in the British capital.
Whitfield will have 10 days between Friday’s opening ceremonies and the race day. “I will just be hanging out in Notting Hill,” he says jokingly.
Naturally, Whitfield will be training every day except a “non-negotiable” day off on Aug. 3, which he’ll spend with his family “for a little head space,” he says.
“It was important for my wife and I for (the girls) to be there because it will probably be the last time I go.”