Gunnedah triathlete nails a third national title

GUNNEDAH’S Donna Hickey has claimed another national crown following an outstanding performance at the Australian Sprint Distance Age Triathlon Championships in Canberra last weekend.

The 54-year-old mother-of-two outgunned rivals in the 50-54 years age division to secure her third national triathlon crown against the best athletes in the land.

Hickey had a ding-dong battle with three other rivals during the 750-metre swim in Lake Burley  Griffin but managed to open up a slender lead on the 20km bike leg.

She came off the bike with a sizzling transition and was never headed during the 5km run despite a gallant effort from eventual second placegetter Jenny Gilbert.

“It was my last year in the 50-54 years age group and it was tough, but very satisfying, to come up with another win,” Hickey said.

“I felt good from the start and knew I had plenty of petrol left in the tank going into the run leg.

“The swim section was extremely hard on all competitors as a savage storm last Friday night had littered Lake Burley Griffin with tonnes of debris.

“You literally had to keep your head above water or slam clean into a bunch of sticks or a log,” she said.

Her breakdown for the three disciplines included a 13.30 minute swim, a 39.40 minute bike leg and 22.30 minute run.

It took Hickey just over one hour 15 minutes to complete the gruelling sprint distance course.

She has now won two 50-54 years Australian titles and one 45-49 years title, making her one of the most capped athletes to contest the national sprint distance events in the past decade.

It started for  Hickey back in 1982 when she competed in the first-ever Gunnedah Australia Day triathlon at the Gunnedah Memorial Pool.

“I’d been running a long time before that but 1982 was my first real taste of triathlon and I’ve had the bug ever since,” she said.

“Due to my commitments in Canberra, last Saturday was the first Gunnedah triathlon I have missed.

“It was worth it though, when you bring home a national title,” she said.

Over the past 31 years, Hickey has bagged so many minor titles that there are too many to list but a standout achievement in her career was a victory in the World Sprint Distance Championships on the Gold Coast in 2009.

She competed in the Worlds again this year in New Zealand and came in a creditable fifth.

An event which firmly sticks in her mind is competing in the gruelling 2005 Forster Ironman.

“You know you’re alive after competing in an ironman event and, until I had my foot operation three years ago, they were the races I preferred,” she said.

The Forster Ironman included a 3.2km swim, 180km bike ride and a 42.2km run.

Leading up to these events, Hickey trains twice a day, six days a week.

“I just love the lifestyle and, if I didn’t compete in triathlons, I’d still be training,” she said.

“If I miss a day I feel like I’ve let myself down – you just get so used to it.”

Hickey now has her sights firmly set on the New South Wales Sprint Distance Championships in March in Sydney before taking a break to prepare for the World Sprint Distance Championships, which this year will be contested in London over the Olympic course.

“I’ll be in the 55-59 years category this year but I’ll have to see how much coin I can save to get to London,” Hickey said.

Her long-time coach and husband, John Hickey, is looking forward to Donna competing in London on the Olympic course.

“If we can get there, we will. She  will be a good chance of nailing another world title and you just can’t get any better than that,” Hickey said.

“If she does as she’s told on the training paddock, I’ll think about letting her go ... with me of course,” he said.

Two other Gunnedah triathletes competed at Canberra on Sunday.

A big year of training paid dividends for Matt Fitzgerald when he finished third in the competitive 25-29 years category and Tammy White came in a commendable 12th in the 45-49 years division.

Donna Hickey has won a third major triathlon title.

Donna Hickey has won a third major triathlon title.