By Australian Triathlete Magazine
Article on Kevin Fergusson – March 17, 2014
The 54-year-old age grouper Kevin Fergusson has been on the triathlon circuit for more than 20 years and enjoyed his fair share of glory moments. This year he’s set himself the whopping goal of completing five Ironmans in the hope of raising $55,000 for cancer research. He tells AT why.
AT: You’ve decided to race for a cause this year, that cause being cancer research and awareness. ?Tell us about your connection to the issue.
KF: My Mum had a cold sore on her lip she thought was taking a long time to heal. Unfortunately it wasn’t a cold sore, it was skin cancer. It was one of the most horrible things to see your Mum slowly lose her battle to this small but deadly cancer. I have chosen cancer research because I know that they need more money to continue funding projects to find a cure; the more money they can get to fund research, the quicker they will find a cure for these deadly cancers. There are also plenty of things we can do to prevent cancer. It’s worth going to the Cancer Council web page in your state or the Australian Cancer Council for advice on what you can do to prevent getting cancer. Remember one in three Australians will get some type of cancer.
AT: What’s the idea behind Iron Five for Fifty-Five? ?
KF: Last year at Melbourne Ironman I donated to ‘Tour De Cure – My 226’ where you dedicate your race to someone special that has been affected or lost their battle to cancer. I raced for Mum. After seeing how important it was to get funding for cancer research, I started thinking of what I could do to help raise funds. The idea came to me that it should involve the number five – what I had perceived to be an unlucky number for a number of reasons: Mum witnessed my Dad drown trying to rescue his mate when their boat overturned in fast moving water when he was 55, on Mother’s Day. My Mum lost her battle to cancer on the 5th of January. So Iron 5 for 55 is turning a negative number into a positive for me and cancer research.
Doing five Ironmans goes with the cancer council logo of the daffodil and its five petals. Ironman Melbourne will be very special to me. Not only will I be racing in memory of my Mum, I will be going even harder in memory of my Dad who lost his life at 55 years of age. I will also turn 55 on race day at Ironman Melbourne. I not only aim to compete in five Ironman events this year but to try to win each one and set course records as well. By doing this I hope to raise the interest in ‘Iron 5 for 55’ and reach my goal of $55,000 to help find a cure for cancer.
AT: How does ‘Buy a Second Could Save Life’ work?
KF: Buy a second could save life’ is the idea behind my fundraising page. You have the opportunity to contribute to this fundraising effort and win some great prizes at the same time. ‘Finish time guesses’ for each leg and overall time for each race are available to purchase. Times are available in one second increments; the closest time will win. Prizes include five XTERRA wetsuits, five Team Giant race kits signed by Team Giant Shimano, five Mizuno/Joggers World running packs and five Suunto Ambit two watches. The total value is over $11,500.
If punters miss out on winning a prize, hopefully they will still have had the opportunity to raise their awareness of cancer prevention, especially for triathletes who spend a lot of time in the sun. ?Fifty per cent of cancers can be prevented so I hope this fundraising venture helps inform people about the different types of cancer, how to reduce one’s risk, and the screening methods available for early detection.
AT: Age doesn’t seem to be a barrier for you on the triathlon circuit. You’ve been recording better race times with age, even now into your mid fifties. What do you think is underpinning this?
KF: I am very lucky that I work in an environment with young people. I am a lecturerr at Regency TAFE teaching Outdoor Recreation and Tourism. Not only does it keep me very active, I am working with young minds that keep me mentally young as well. I certainly don’t act or feel like a 50-plus person, so when it comes to doing triathlons I am just another competitor up against all the rest, age is not in the equation.
My goal years ago was to be racing elite in South Australia until I stopped making the podium at least twice in the season.
I was hoping to make 50, then 55, now 60 is the new goal. The longer distance obviously suits me better so that is my main focus now. The last few years I have been setting PBs so this has inspired me to go for course records for Iron 5 for 55.
There are five main reasons behind my improvements:
1. Once you have achieved something you really need to have a new goal to focus on for your next achievement, especially in Ironman.
2.We do this sport for fun and recreation, train with friends and enjoy the social side of the sport.
3. They say age is a barrier. I am more and more motivated to prove age is not a barrier; the mind is the barrier.
4. I have definitely got improvements from having quality brands and products from my sponsors. I used to ride a $99 Standish bike for years, now I am on a Giant Trinity TT bike.
5. The most important is finding the balance between a very demanding sport, work, family and friends. Triathlon is part of my life now and its benefits spread out in all directions: friends, healthier lifestyle, travel, stress relief, weight loss, sleep, and feeling good. If I can’t compete in the future for some reason, I will definitely be involved in the sport in some other way.
Ripening with age: Fergusson is a household name in triathlon across Australia, proving each year that age is no barrier to greatness.
AT: How has the triathlon scene changed since you started out in the 90s? What are the biggest ?things you’ve noticed?
KF: The biggest change in the sport as far as Ironman is concerned is the abolishment of the half-Ironman qualifier to do an Ironman. There is the good and bad to this decision. The good is that it has definitely opened it up for more people to be able to compete and find the passion for this life-changing event. The media attention and popularity has also increased dramatically. It is also attracting celebrities and even prime ministers, a great buzz racing against him in my age group at Port Mac.
The bad? It used to be the best age groupers who raced against each other, now you are racing against those who have the fastest internet provider. This has changed how the race starts at some events with wave starts now because some people are not very good swimmers. The qualifying races used to be such an exciting time, with the suspense to see if your times and your friends were good enough to get a spot. The cost of the sport has certainly increased over the years, not only entry fees but trying to keep up with the Joneses.
My experience in the sport started with short course which suited my lifestyle with a young family; as they grew up so did I in the sport. I have been very fortunate to find success in this sport and have been rewarded by securing fantastic sponsors that have helped me achieve my goals.
AT: Tell us about some of your career highlights.
KF: Ok, here’s my top five:
1. Winning my first Olympic distance world title in Vancouver 2001.
2. Doing my first Ironman with my brother at Forster 2004, winning my age group and qualifying for Hawaii.
3. Being the first age grouper off the bike at the Cairns Ironman 2010 and then running side by side with my triathlon idol Macca (Chris McCormack) for the first 10km.
4. Winning my age group in Hawaii in 2009.
5. Winning four world titles in six weeks in 2009.
AT: Can you share some of your experiences training and racing with your brother, Grant?
KF: Grant and I were both ex football players that were heading in the wrong direction as far as healthy lifestyles. We both were heavy smokers and drinkers and very unfit. For some strange reason we decided to do a triathlon when we were still smoking. It changed both our lives that day, especially mine as it was the first time I had beaten my older brother in any sport. We made a New Year’s resolution to give up smoking and do another tri and have never looked back. In 2004 we embarked on our new goal to do an Ironman, we both travelled the circuit together doing three qualifying races to gain points to get to the starting line at Foster. It certainly has changed our relationship; we are not just brothers we are great mates and training partners.
I will always remember our first Ironman. I had a great race and had gone back to our accommodation with another mate to have a shower and grab some refreshments. We got back near the finish line with more refreshments but missed my brother crossing the line. He was not too impressed with my form so in 2006 the year our Mum lost her battle, we did our next Ironman. I made sure I was there and what a humble experience it was to run down the finish line with him, having the memory of Mum in our minds. You’re not allowed to do that anymore – have someone run down the finish line with you. I can see the reason but it is such a journey and sometimes it means so much to run down the finishing chute with a loved one, and share those incredible five words: Grant, you are an Ironman.
AT: What advice would you give to someone starting out in triathlons later in the game?
KF: This has to be one of few sports where people look forward to getting older so they can go into the next age group. I started in my thirties and was a mid pack finisher. I read as much as possible about the sport which was pretty limited back when I started. It is like anything in life: knowledge, passion and consistency always pays dividends. Join a club, train with similar people who have a passion for improvement and enjoyment. Remember later on when you are finding success, you are doing this for enjoyment. Unfortunately there are age groupers out there who are far too serious; they need to chill out and enjoy the journey.
Another world title: Fergusson crossed the line at the Gold Coast for another World Title to his name.