The Australian Ironman Triathlon community has lost a father figure with the passing of Bob Southwell, last Friday, 14 August 2020, aged 91.
The Southwell family, from Caringbah, were instrumental in bringing the sport of triathlon from the Australian backstreet to the main roads during the early 1990's.
Bob the father of five sons was a decorated triathlete who competed in numerous local and international races and earned the respect of triathletes around the world.
Bob came to the sport in his mid 50's initially competing in shorter triathlons because that is where he could find his wife Aileen and his competitive sons.
He excelled in his age class, placing 5th in the Orlando ITU World Championship race in 1990 and he followed that up with 2nd place in the 1991 ITU World Championship on the Gold Coast, both in the 60 to 64 year age group.
At a time in his life when a lot of triathletes think about retiring Bob instead switched to long course and Ironman racing and completed his first Ironman in Forster in 1993 along with four of his five sons.
He returned to Forster in 1994 and won the 65-69 years age group, set the age group record, qualified for the Hawaii Ironman then won the Ironman World Championship later that year for the 65-69 age group in what was a world record time of 12:38:04.
When Bob won this first world title in Kona,and breaking the record - it was the same day that Greg Welch became the first non-American to win the greatest Triathlon in the World.
Bob went on the establish race records for the 70 to 74 and the 75 plus age groups.
The respect which he commanded was typified in 2004 when he was inducted into the Ironman Australia Hall of Fame in recognition of his achievements.
He was the fifth person to do so and this occurred before other Shire high profile athletes such as Greg Welch and Chris McCormack, who joined him there in later years.
He competed in 2004, at age 75, in the Australian Ironman with all five of his sons, Paul, John, Tony, Chris, Steve and daughter in law Leanne , the "Southwell Seven".
Champion triathlete and family friend Mick Maroney said Bob was generous, kind, happy, and a beautiful soul. He lived a full life and touched countless people in a positive and endearing way.
"Triathlon is blessed to have had him among us for so long. I consider the Southwell's my brothers - and love them dearly. They are a reflection of their dad Bob, which is the greatest compliment I can pay them."
Glenn Schwarzel the President, Triathlon NSW said Bob was a great ambassador for the sport and it would be hard not to have been inspired by his achievements. He earned the respect of triathletes around the world and it is fitting that we acknowledge his contributions.