Sufferfest’s youngest competitor Champness runs with youth on his side

AT 18, Matt Champness is the youngest competitor in this weekend’s Sufferfest field.

Matt Champness strides out across the  Hopkins River Bridge. 

Matt Champness strides out across the Hopkins River Bridge. 

But the Hamilton resident isn’t daunted about taking on the gruelling Warrnambool course.

Champness will join nine professionals, including 2013 winner Luke Bell, in the field for the two-kilometre swim, 80km ride and 20km run.

Competitors will swim up Hopkins River before tackling climbs on four laps of a Hopkins Point Road ride.

They will finish by running two laps from the Blue Hole to the breakwater. Champness, who won the under 24 Olyfest section last year, said he was excited to test himself on a tough course against a strong field.

“It is the first time I have done that distance so I am going to go have fun and finish,” he said.

“I am not going for a particular time but I am certainly aiming for under five hours.

“Coming out of the swim I want to be in the top few. The elite guys will be in front of me.”

Champness said the run was his toughest leg and would be exacerbated by the fact he would carry a niggling ankle injury into the race. The lifeguard said reflecting on the hard work he’d put in would spur him.

“You just think about the time you put into it and the sacrifices you have made, and mum and dad as well to get me there, so you just push on,” he said.

“There is the huge satisfaction of finishing the race.

“I am never going to be a professional or anything but I want to do it for life.

“I want to do an ironman one day and this is half of that.”

Champness, who is in a gap year and wants to travel overseas to do some volunteer work, said he’d taken an interest in triathlons at school.

He gave cricket and tennis away to focus on the sport.

“It was an inter-school competition three years ago and I thought I’d have a go at it,” he said.

“I couldn’t run the 4km there (but) I continued on.”

Champness’ father David will compete in the Olyfest on Sunday.

The Olyfest consists of a 1.5km swim, 40km ride and 10km run. 

The race has attracted 282 entrants, including team entries.

Warrnambool Tri Club vice-president Dean Picken said it was a significant increase.

“It’s up from 200 last year — a 30 per cent growth,” he said. “We’re very happy.”

Picken said the club, which has a number of small events pencilled in for tomorrow, wanted to build a week-long carnival around the event in coming years.

“We are getting stability for the race now,” he said.

“We have a permit from council for five years for race closures and sponsors for three years.”

The Sufferfest starts at 7.15am on Sunday and is expected to take the stronger athletes four hours, while the Olyfest will begin at 7.45am and will take the leading contenders about two hours to complete.


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