With the 1992 World Triathlon Championships in Muskoka coming up on its historic 30th anniversary next Monday Sept 12th, we thought we would do a series of short stories looking back on the importance of that historic race to Canada’s success in the sport. If you have not read last week’s story, please review it first at https://www.triathloncanada.com/the-day-triathlon-changed-in-canada/
Triathlon Canada and Graham and Sue Fraser’s organizing committee were concerned about many things leading into that first event. Weather. Spectators. Volunteers and ensuring enough funds were generated to cover the massively expensive World Championships. Young Graham Fraser had a knack of creating golden movements in his career and once the early morning fog passed, his race organizing committee hit a home run for the sport and Canada. First to cross the line in front of Deerhurst Resort was Britain’s Spencer Smith in the junior men’s category. Smith would go onto win numerous pro world championships after his successful Muskoka race. Canada’s Kirstie Otto would win the bronze medal in junior women and lead her team to a bronze medal as well. Remember those 15–18-year-old junior women raced non-drafting over the challenging Olympic distance. It would not be till 2001 in Edmonton that World Triathlon would move the juniors down to the sprint drafting distance and create a under 23 World Championships category. Simon Whitfield could not make Canada’s junior team in 1992 and instead raced in the citizen’ race. While he didn’t win that day, he let the World Championships inspire him to train harder, smarter, and just eight years later would win the first ever Olympic Games Gold Medal for Canada. One could argue that without those important early races, many athletes may not have selected triathlon for the vocation. Cameron Brown from New Zealand used a silver medal in the junior category to spring a 30+ year Ironman career where he has won Ironman New Zealand 12 times and 2 bronze medals in Kona. A young Norman Stadler from Germany was 17th in the junior category and would go onto win the Hawaii Ironman twice as a pro. Nineteen-year-old Stefan Vuckovic of Germany was way back in 35th place, but eight years later he would be the last man Simon Whitfield past before he crossed the line for the gold medal at the Sydney Olympic Games.
Before Muskoka 1992, officials really did not exist in Canada. Ontario’s Tony Harnett was given the task of creating an official’s program and many of the rules that Harnett and his officials helped create are still being used today. Triathlon Canada had reaped success in the Gold Coast in 1991 and with home course advantage were one of the dominant teams of the 1992 World Championships. Imagine, Canada had three women in the top 10 of the pro categories with Kelowna’s Joanne Ritchie taking silver behind Michelle Jones (after having won the Gold in 1991). Joining Ritchie in the top 10 that day was Saskatchewan’s Fiona Cribb (7th) and Sue Schlatter (8th). On the men’s side the great Simon Lessing (eventually known as big Simon) won his first of five World Titles in Muskoka. Canadian’s Mark Bates and Andrew MacMartin were 7th and 10th and won the men’s team championship. Canada’s elite women were silver medal team, and the junior women were bronze. Added to the success were a dozen age group medals spread between the 20-75+ year age category. World Triathlon had taken a risk on a small northern Ontario town and the citizens of Muskoka along with Triathlon Canada and the Fraser family had surprised everyone’s expectations. September 12, 1992 would be remembered for Canada’s first World Championships, but eventually host eight more World Triathlon Championships from Newfoundland to Vancouver, with multiple stops in Edmonton and Montreal. Had that first World Championship not been a smashing success, one could speculate that future major championships might not have come back to Canada. Muskoka was the steppingstone for numerous Sydney Olympic athletes, including three Sydney medalists. From developing officials to optimizing how to cover a triathlon for television, the 1992 Muskoka World Championships played a historic role in the development of the sport. Next Monday Sept 12th is the final three part looking back at Canada’s first ever World Triathlon Championships as we celebrate the 30th anniversary of that most important Canadian event.