De oudere lezers kennen haar uit haar eerste carrière als topatlete. De jongere kijkers van de livestream van o.a. Challenge kennen haar als de vrouwelijke commentator bij de livestreams, haar huidige carriere. De Australische Belinda Granger, inmiddels 51 jaar. 14voudig winnares van professionele lange afstand races, waaronder Roth. Tegenwoordig reist ze de wereld rond om de Challenge races van commentaar te voorzien, waarbij haar enthousiasme en kennis opvallen. We kennen elkaar na onze eerste ontmoeting in Almere een aantal jaar geleden, delen dezelfde passie en dus Belinda maar eens aan de tand gevoeld. De vliegreis terug naar Australië vanuit Daytona gaf haar de tijd om onze vragen uitgebreid te beantwoorden.
As a world class athlete yourself, you did travel around the world a lot. As a commentator it is more or less the same. Does traveling never get boring?
To be honest, it is more or less the same, however, no longer having to travel with a bike is definitely a lot easier! No more worrying about if the bike is going to make it onto the plane or will it survive the trip without being broken. Travel now is definitely a lot less stressful in that respect. The pandemic has of course created a whole new game of stress and panic. Travel can for sure be long and boring, especially as Australia is so far away from any other country, however, it is always worth it, as I love my job and I love what I do.
How do you prepare for the races?
As a commentator there is always a lot of research and preparation involved leading into a race. There are also lots of zoom calls with the production team and a lot of study. I like to make sure I know something special about every single athlete on the start line. As a commentator I think it is extremely important to know the athletes, not just their results, but what makes them special and stand out from the rest. Sometimes I feel like I am a bit of a stalker as my research often involves looking at an athlete’s instagram page. I also like to sit down with as many athletes as I can before the race to see how they are actually feeling.
Triathlon is a lifestyle for us. Also for you? If yes, in what way?
Triathlon has always been a lifestyle choice for me. I began as an age group athlete back when I was 21 yrs of age. I woke up one morning and no longer liked what I saw in the mirror. I needed an activity that I could do day in, day out, one that I would not get bored of and one that would also fit in with my everyday life. Triathlon seemed the perfect choice as there were 3 sports in one. It would be impossible to get bored! I never set out thinking that triathlon would eventually become my career but I am so thankful that it did. It has given me opportunities that I could only ever have dreamt of. It has been a huge part of my life now for over 30 years! If you think about it, triathlon really is the perfect lifestyle sport- you get to travel to some of the most incredible destinations, meet like-minded people, race and have fun afterward.
There is a special bond between you and the Challenge Family. Can you tell us why?
Ever since I first traveled to Germany to race Challenge Roth back in 2004, I have had this incredible connection with the Challenge brand. It all started with the Walchshoefer family- Herbert, Alice, Felix and Kathrin. I’ve never met a family quite like them. Roth is not only the most incredible race but it is run by the most incredible team in the world. They are simply so special. It sounds so cliche, but it truly is like being part of one big family. After my first race in Roth in 2004, I continued to return to Roth year after year and then Felix created Challenge Family and I made it my mission to race as many Challenge Family events around the world as I possibly could. When I finally retired from racing, I was lucky enough to start working for the company and now I couldn’t even imagine doing anything else. My three Dutch bosses are the best bosses in the world!!
As far as I know you never raced in the Netherlands, but as a commentator you have visited our country. Is there anything special for you in the Netherlands?
You are indeed correct, I never got the opportunity to race in the Netherlands. I actually really regret that now, especially as I have since experienced all that Almere has to offer. I absolutely love Amsterdam! It is for sure one of my favourite cities in all of Europe. It was so good getting to stay there for a night before the World Long Distance Championships this year. I simply love walking through the streets and looking at the amazing architecture. For an Aussie, Amsterdam is like a type of fairy land.
Which race was the most special for you as an athlete and which race as a commentator.
Ohhhh now this is a tough question as I am not sure I can mention just one race here. Of course my favourite full distance race as an athlete is definitely Challenge Roth, especially when I raced it for the second time in 2005 and was able to take the win. That win was one of the most special in my entire career. I raced Roth ten times and have continued to return year after year to do the live commentary which I love to do.
My favourite race location (so destination race) was and still is the Laguna Phuket Triathlon in Thailand. It always falls on my birthday weekend, making it even more special. I have raced and worked at this race more than any other race ever! I think I have been there more than 17 time’s now. It has been tough not being able to get there the last two years because of Covid. I am hopeful that I will make it back there in 2022.
As far as race commentary goes, I have really loved working at Challenge Daytona and Challenge Miami. The production team I work with at all of these races (now known as Clash Endurance) is the absolute best ever. A stand out was most definitely Challenge Daytona PTO Championship in 2020. What a pro field we had assembled at that race!
When I listen to you commentating during a race, it looks like a lot of emotion in the way you speak. Can you tell us about that?
I love the sport of triathlon just as much, if not, even more, than I did when I first started as an age group athlete back in the late 80’s. Triathlon has been such a huge part of my life for so long now. It is where I met my husband, it has allowed me to travel the world and meet so many incredible people and discover so many incredible places. I owe so much to this sport of ours. My role as pro liaison for Challenge Family also means that I get to know so many of the pro athletes on the circuit and I have become such good friends with so many of them. I feel I have a vested interest in them all. When they race well I am elated for them but when they are having a bad day, I feel their pain like it is my own. I think this is obvious when I commentate. I truly love our sport and I truly care for the athletes, hence my nickname ‘mother hen’. It is hard for me to contain my excitement sometimes, especially when I know it is going to be an amazing race. I wear my heart on my sleeve and I am not ashamed to admit that I am a triathlon junkie.
Do you think sub 8 for women is possible in LD?
If you had asked me that question 18 months ago I probably would have answered ‘no it is not possible’, however, fast forward to now and I most definitely do think it is possible. It is almost like Covid has actually allowed athletes to go away and train uninterrupted for a huge period of time with little stress that often comes with preparing for a race. The improvements have been extraordinary. With athletes like Lucy Charles Barclay, Dani Ryf, Nicola Spirig and young guns like Taylor Knibb, they are setting new standards and constantly raising the bar. I think we have Chrissie Wellington to thank for this as she was one of the first to really show what is possible.
Special attention for women in triathlon to get them more involved in racing, how important is that?
It is crucial. I’ve been in the sport for over 30 years now and I love how many more women have taken up the sport since I started. We need to continue supporting women in triathlon by offering women-specific races where they feel comfortable and confident. Having role models like Lucy Charles-Barclay and her ‘battle braids’ which has already convinced so many young girls to take up sport. I also love how many companies have been really focussing on women’s-specific equipment such as time trial bikes, clothing, wetsuits and shoes. Back when I first started racing, there really wasn’t a lot of women’s specific gear at all.
If you are not busy with triathlon on site or traveling, how is a day for Belinda?
My day always starts with a training session- either an F45 gym session or a run with my pups. It is then home to work in my role as Challenge Family Pro Liaison. I do like to take the dogs for a walk at lunch time, usually to one of my favourite local coffee shops in Noosa for lunch and a coffee. My afternoon involves more work and then another short training session. I still love to train. I don’t train nearly as much as I did when I was an athlete, but I do still love to get two sessions done a day, even if it is just a walk or beach time with my two pups. Training these days is more about balance so I can enjoy a glass of red each night without feeling guilty 😉