Dubbed the “World’s Fittest Man” by ESPN, four-time triathlon world champion Chris McCormack recently joined Thanyapura Phuket as executive chairman with an aim to turn Thailand into Asia’s next sports training hub and help Thai talent reach the next level.
At the age of 41, Australian Chris McCormack, also known as Macca, has won a staggering 226 triathlons around the world, including two from the Ironman World Championships (2007 and 2010), the 1997 International Triathlon Union World Cup Series, the 1997 Triathlon World Championship, and the 2012 Long Distance World Championship.
Today, Macca lives a life as large as his legend and when he’s not at Thanyapura training and relaxing with the world’s greatest athletes and sports heroes like British F1 champion Jenson Button, fellow Ironman champions Jurgen Zack and Belinda Granger, he might be found swimming for charity with the Prince of Bahrain, jetting off to Rio with close friend Michael Phelps, or surfing with his family and friends.
With his athletic expertise, Macca has helped Thanyapura Phuket unveil the Elite Junior Sport Academies, aimed at tapping the very best in talented young Thai athletes and propelling them to gold at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
Tell us more about the Elite Junior Sport Academies.
The Elite Junior Sport Academies is our most recent project offering sport and education scholarships for gifted young athletes to propel them to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, focusing on tennis, swimming and triathlons. This includes training with world-class coaches at our facilities and education through PIADS, which makes us the perfect place to build future Olympians.
This is something the whole team at Thanyapura is tremendously excited about. We are confident that we have created a unique and important offering in this part of the world.
Are Thailand’s athletes good enough to win gold in Tokyo?
We’ve already selected Tanakrit “Nok” Kittiya as an ambassador for our programme. Nok is a very talented swimmer who has set the national scene on fire. He’s 17, grew up in Chiang Mai and won a bronze in the 400m freestyle at the 2013 SEA Games, scored four gold medals at the Thai National Age Group Championships, and set a new Butterfly Stroke record at the Singapore National Age Group Championships in March 2014.
From August, full board and week-day boarding options will be available to all students and athletes between the ages of 13 and18, complete with an exclusive sports scholarship programme that will see gifted athletes streamed into elite international sporting colleges.
Through support and encouragement, as well as the very best coaching and sports medicine methods, we will extract every ounce of talent out of an athlete.
What are the lessons learned from your own youth as a gifted athlete?
You don’t realise as an athlete the opportunities you had as a kid gave you options when you got older. I was in a running club in Australia, my local club, and you look around and there are world champions, you go to the pub and there are former Olympians. There’s an underlying sporting culture and a skill and development culture that you take for granted.
You are still in the phase at school where sport is fun, and your development is looked after by very experienced people. In this part of the world, that level of experience and support structure is just not present at the same level. Until now.
I know from the expat’s point of view, their attitude is that they are here for work, but their kid is pretty good at soccer, or swimming, and they agonise over whether they should go back to Australia to give their kids the best shot at making it in sport. Thanyapura can plug that gap, families can remain in Asia and work while their kids can be enrolled in one of our elite junior academies, where they’ll get a great education, world-class coaching and facilities and sports medicine and mental training.
What is your message to these young aspiring athletes?
That all good things come to those people who make good things happen to themselves. What I mean here is that with hard work and commitment you can achieve and you have to be sure as to believe in your dreams and your ways.
Triathlon has shown me that you have to deal with failure before you can rejoice in success. You take more from failing than you do from winning. I am all about taking a chance and having a go. I would prefer to have tried and failed, than to have never tried at all. Triathlons gave me this mindset and I will take this through life with me. Chase your dreams! So many people don’t do that!
Are there any other points you would like to make?
We need to create the feeder pathways to the big US colleges, Stanford for example, which is huge in swimming. We have to be clear about where we are in this food chain, as the kids come to us at the most critical stage in their development as athletes. If you can’t hit a tennis ball right when you are 10, you won’t be able to at 17. And if there are flaws in your stroke as a 10 year old, it will be very hard to iron them out later on.
I’ve had some high points and great victories in my career that I’ll always cherish, but being privileged to do what I do today, helping create these great opportunities for a new generation of young athletes, is the greatest honour and a really exciting challenge.
Read full article on Bangkok Post.