Simon Whitfield is now recognized as one of the most extraordinary triathlon athletes of all time. A talented runner, Whitfield built a name for himself over a decorated, decades-long career. Winning ten consecutive Canadian Triathlon Championships titles, he later carried the Canadian national flag during the 2000 Summer Olympics closing ceremony in Sydney, Australia, where Whitfield won a gold medal. He also carried the national flag during the opening ceremony at London’s 2012 Summer Olympics, establishing Whitfield as one of few Canadian athletes to be an Olympic flag bearer twice. Throughout his career, Whitfield has achieved 104 starts, 30 podiums, and 23 wins.
Triathlon Career Start
Born in 1975 in Ontario, Canada, Whitfield was active in soccer. At the age of 11, he began refining his competitive skills as a member of the Canadian Kids of Steel program. By age 15, he began partaking in triathlete competitions on a regular and serious basis.
Whitfield’s career was only sometimes one of success. In the beginning, he showed early potential as a triathlon competitor. However, he needed to gain the skills to put all three disciplines together. Whitfield had a passion for the competition and had the drive to be “the world best at something.” Thus, he made the dedicated decision as a teenager to relocate to Australia to train amongst the greatest triathlon athletes.
At the Sydney Olympics, Whitfield was far from consideration to win the event. At the time, he had only a few top wins on his record. Armed with self-confidence and catching up for time in the swim, he picked himself off the ground after he and 14 other riders crashed in the bike race section of the event. Eventually, Whitfield worked his way back near the leaders. During the foot race, he put on a finishing kick to take the win. His final time was 1:48:24.02. Until 2012, the score stood as the fastest Olympic triathlon time.
Further Career Success
Whitfield’s gold medal served as a jump start to a fulfilling triathlon career. He later competed in the Beijing Olympics in 2008. He received a time of 1:48:58, finishing just 5 seconds behind the German gold medalist to receive a silver medal at his third consecutive Olympic games. His silver medal win is even more significant, considering he was a distant fourth behind three leading runners heading into the final mile of the run before moving ahead at the 200 meters remaining.
Whitfield explained, “I quit before the line in Athens, when it was obvious I wasn’t going to win, I stopped giving it everything I had.” He continued, “I regretted that afterwards and simply committed that in Beijing I would cross the line knowing I had left everything out on the course.”
Whitfield’s final major triathlon competition came at the 2012 London Olympics. He finished 15th in the swim portion, and while riding out of transition in his aero-bars, he was caught off balance moving over a speed bump, falling off and breaking his collarbone. This forced him to drop out of the race. Whitfield remained composed throughout the ordeal and showed great character in supporting his other teammates.
By 2013, Whitfield had retired from triathlete competitions. Today, he is considered one of the most determined triathlon athletes in the world, known for his hard work, sportsmanship and honor in competition. Among his other honors, Whitfield was inducted into Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame in 2017.