Dr. Jane Hunt has used her skills as an Historian and passion as a triathlete put together a comprehensive history of triathlon in Australia. On the first few cold days of winter I fired up the jug and had a fair few cups of tea as I thumbed through this comprehensive read that for me is equal parts reminiscent and revealing.
A few years back when this book was first mooted, a cheeky wag on Transitions scoffed at documenting the “history” of a sport that was only 30 years old however in an age where people can win a singing talent show and a year later be pumping out a “greatest hits” record I think it is well overdue.
Thirty years in the history of the planet or civilization may be but a mere speck, but when the sport we love has spanned possibly the most technologically fluid era since man invented the wheel then there were always going to be big changes to be documented. Added to that is the ad hoc nature in which our sport was conceived and its low key community style roots which has meant that official records are scarce and many important parts of the history of triathlon are contained in the scrap books and memories of its competitors and organisers. Resources that, if not tapped now, may become irretrievable and we may never be able to find out just how hard triathlon was “back in the day”.
Triathlon seems to contain more than its fair share of “type A” personalities with a fascination for facts, data and research so the style of this book, being a well researched and factual document, is well suited to its intended audience. The author, Dr. Jane Hunt is a historian and triathlete (and Transitions member). She has taken an academic and professional approach to this tome which is evident by the citations and references throughout. While we at Transitions had known about this books progress for some time I was genuinely surprised, when I got a sneak peek at Port Macquarie Ironman, at the scale of this publication. I think even the most ardent sceptic would be amazed at the breadth of the historical record for a sport “only” 30 years old, at well over 300 pages in length it makes a most impressive coffee table book.
I’m not a total Luddite, but I still like reading my books in paper form, and this book is a delight to behold, literally. This well presented hard cover is coffee table quality and contains oodles of great photos. In fact, the photos themselves would make this book worth buying. The photos run the full gamut of the sport, from embarrassing snaps of bad 80’s haircuts and clothing, to the iconic images of our sport such as Greg Welch’s Hawaiian Ironman victory leap.
While triathlon my not be all that old, it has evolved enough to contain events that have become iconic even in the mainstream, it has gained inclusion in the Olympics and spawned much technological advancement that has not only been confined to triathlon but crossed over to its individual component sports.
For those that have been around the sport for a while and have seen a lot of the evolution of the sport at close quarters, this book is a nice reminder of the changes that have occurred over the years and the places and faces that became part of the sports history. Triathlon is also old enough to be moving into a whole new generation of athlete who may have no knowledge of the sports roots, innovators and past champions. For those new to the sport and interested in the back story of how this crazy endeavour came to be and our Australia’s place in that global tapestry this book will become essential reading.
Multisport Dreaming is not a strict linear history of the sport. What it does do is document the different “steps” that triathlon in Australia has taken in finding its feet as a bona fide sport. Within the pages documenting these steps are athlete profiles highlighting in a little more depth the athletes who were integral to that era. The book also gives a separate chapter to each of two additional aspects of the sport that have been extremely important to its popularity, development and growth. Long course and Ironman racing, which has given us many of our champions on the world stage and has seen Australia constantly punching above its weight is given its own chapter which also includes the story behind some now defunct races that those newer to the sport may not know ever existed. Age group participation and the club aspect of triathlon is also given a chapter, and this is where we can see where the “average Joe” fits into the bigger picture of triathlon and how some “slightly better than average Joe’s” can rise to the ranks of World Champion in the age group format. It is here that Jane also recognises he place of the World Wide Web in triathlon and comments when talking about Transitions “Transitions frequently features edgy commentary on triathlon current affairs that combines fiction, fact and humour”. Sounds about right!!
What this book shows is there is indeed plenty of history to be crammed into the first thirty years of triathlon, and had it not been documented now the ravages of time would have taken its toll on both the hard copy documents and the personal memories that have gone into collating this account of how we got to where we are. No doubt digital technology will make the account of the next thirty years a much easier task, but thankfully Jane was willing to do the hard yards and give our sport a solid footing upon which all further conversations can build.
The book is available for $54.95 +p&h direct from the link below and would make some excellent winter reading for the late nights of TDF viewing coming up or a great hint for an early Father’s day present.