McCormack’s iron will

Uncertain path ahead: Chris McCormack finishes the annual 2.3-kilometre Shark Island swim at Cronulla beach last Sunday. Picture: Chris Lane
Uncertain path ahead: Chris McCormack finishes the annual 2.3-kilometre Shark Island swim at Cronulla beach last Sunday. Picture: Chris Lane

WORLD champion triathlete Chris McCormack has revealed he is steeling himself for a switch back to ironman training for the Hawaii World Ironman later this year — if he misses selection for the Australian Olympic team to London.

Meantime, Cronulla neighbour Craig Alexander, the defending champion and triple world ironman champion, also will compete this Sunday in his first ironman race of the season: Melbourne’s inaugural Ironman Asia-Pacific Championship.

McCormack, the 2010 world ironman champion and 1997 world Olympic distance champion, is attempting to do what no other triathlete has done: win Olympic Games selection just eight months after competing in the much longer world ironman.

The Cronulla champ only has a couple of races to prove he has the speed to make the Olympic team, starting with the ITU World Cup Triathlon this weekend in Mooloolaba and the Sydney Triathlon in less than a month.

Last week at the Devonport Oceania Championships, won by Brendan Sexton, McCormack finished 14th, after sacrificing himself to ensure the Australian mens team qualified three athletes for the Olympics.

At the Australian Sprint Championships last month in Geelong, ‘‘Macca’’ almost became the Australian open champion at 39 years old!

‘‘The only thing that stopped me was a 15-second penalty on the run,’’ McCormack said.

But he knows time is running out for him to make the Olympic team. ‘‘I know I’m good enough. Devonport was all about getting a third spot for Australia,’’ he said after swimming the annual 2.3-kilometre Shark Island challenge at Cronulla beach last Sunday. Ideally, he would like a top-five finish in Mooloolaba and Sydney to cement a spot.

Looking leaner than he ever has before, McCormack said he would like to find out from the selectors ‘‘sooner than later’’ if he is London-bound, but that might not be until the end of May.

‘‘I can then move back to Ironman training, because I would like to do Kona [world ironman] at least one more time, meaning I would also have to fit in an ironman race between April and October,’’ said McCormack, who is qualified for Hawaii for the next five years.

‘‘I can’t go on forever.

‘‘I’d love to make the Olympic team but if I’m not selected, I’ll train specifically aimed at Hawaii.’’

At the moment, only Brendan Sexton is a certain Australian Olympic selection.

Missing out on selection for Sydney 2000 Olympics, where fellow Sutherland Shire athlete Michellie Jones won a silver medal, was a big disappointment for ‘‘Macca’’ and he took up ironman training almost immediately.

Speaking in an earlier interview about that, McCormack said:

‘‘I was really angry and felt hurt, so I made a decision [not to go to the 2004 Athens Olympics]. I ultimately should have gone to Athens. Speaking to the guys from Athens, I walked away from an amazing opportunity to medal or even win.’’

About London, McCormack said: ‘‘I don’t need to be the top guy. I just need to meet the Australian selection criteria, which is discretionary.

‘‘It is not a matter of picking the best of the rest.

‘‘It may come down to just how we can be as teammates and what best gives us a chance for success in London.

‘‘I’ve enjoyed the training and meeting all the guys. I am happy with how I have progressed.’’

McCormack will get another chance on Sunday in Mooloolaba.

Defending world ironman champion Craig Alexander is the favourite for the first Ironman Asia-Pacific Championship in Melbourne this Sunday, a major part of his preparation for Kona, Hawaii, later this year.

Unlike last year, the triple Ironman world champion from Cronulla has spent the early part of the year training around his beloved Sutherland Shire, rather than racing, so he could spend more time with his family.