Murray's future lies in Hawaii, not Beijing

PUBLISHED : Friday, 07 October, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 07 October, 2005, 12:00am

Athlete blames a lack of support and no guarantee of selection for the Olympics

With her Olympic dreams firmly behind her, Hong Kong's leading female triathlete Claire Murray will depart for Hawaii today looking ahead to next Sunday's Ironman World Championship.

Given the choice of choosing between investing the next three years trying to qualify for the Beijing Olympics, or taking part in Ironman events, Murray chose the latter.

And she hopes her decision will be justified when she comes up against the world's leading athletes in Hawaii in the gruelling long-distance event which features a 3.8km swim, a 180km bike followed by a marathon.

'Unfortunately the Hong Kong Triathlon Association does not support the Ironman category as they feel it will jeopardise preparation for the shorter Olympic distance,' she said.

'So I had to make a choice and I choose to go for the Ironman,' said Murray who last year fell short of qualifying for the Athens Olympics by two spots.

Murray said her decision - which has resulted in her losing her scholarship status at the Sports Institute - to pick the longer Ironman distance was mainly because she did not have the 'raw speed' to match the best in the Olympic distance, and also as she had no guarantees that she would be able to take part in Beijing if she qualified.

'I feel I'm better at the Ironman distance. Swimming is very important in triathlon and I know I can't keep up with the top swimmers in the shorter [1.5km] Olympic distance.

'I don't have the raw speed to keep up, whereas I can do better over the longer, endurance-type swimming for Ironman,' Murray said.

Her second reason for her switch stems from the fact that she does not hold an SAR passport and thus falls foul of the Olympic eligibility requirements.

'I wasn't prepared to invest the next four years of my life attempting to qualify for the Olympics without an assurance that I would be picked to represent Hong Kong if I qualified for Beijing. Both these factors made me decide to change to Ironman,' she said.

'I also knew that with all the training in the world, I would never stand a chance of winning an Olympic medal. But I have hopes of getting a podium finish in the Ironman World Championship. Winning the Hawaii event would be comparable to winning an Olympic medal,' said Murray.

A podium finish is highly unlikely this year for Murray. It is her first year racing as a professional. In 2000, she took part as an amateur and finished the race in 11 hours and 33 minutes.

But she has come on since then.

In March, she qualified for Hawaii when she placed third in the New Zealand Ironman with her best time of 9:59.

Breaking through the 10 hour barrier was a huge psychological boost for her, and this was further boosted when she found out that she had qualified for the prestigious Hawaii race.

'It is incredibly hard to qualify for this race with only the top two places being awarded to the professional women at most Ironman races. But I won my berth after the winner of the New Zealand Ironman had automatically qualified having placed fifth in last year's Hawaii race,' explained Murray.

So Olympic dreams over, Murray is chasing another rainbow.