Seniors aplenty at Sunshine Coast IRONMAN 70.3
EARLY THIS month a legion of families from all corners of the globe prepared to touch down on Queensland's Sunshine Coast for the biggest ever IRONMAN 70.3 World Championship.
Staking its claim as a global adventure-endurance capital, Queensland sits high on the list; a destination where Mother Nature herself has thrown down the gauntlet, inspiring some of the world's most awesome finishing lines on land and sea. Bucket list courses that draw the best of the best.
Among them was American IRONMAN veteran, Bill Beyer, 55, who's excited about travelling to Mooloolaba to mark the 11th anniversary of the 70.3 world championship event, having competed in the inaugural challenge in Florida with his son, Bucky, in 2006.
Over nearly 20 years, Bill has clocked up more than 71 IRONMAN events around the world (including five Kona world championships in a tally of 21 full distance courses).
Notably, seven of them with his children, Bucky, 30, and Penny, 27, including the 2014 IRONMAN in Melbourne. After missing out on spending Father's Day with his children in the United States (19 June), the high-flying partner with Deloitte Consulting, based in Virginia, looked forward to celebrating an Aussie Father's Day in the 'best way possible'.
In short, lining up against 3,268 athletes from 83 nations in a sporting challenge ranked among the toughest on Earth; the 70.3 or half IRONMAN - an epic 113km test of endurance (1.9km swim, 90km bike and 21.1km run). Better still, Bill's children - who moved to Australia six years ago, and now call Sydney home - were there to cheer him on.
For his son, Bucky, a week after being sworn in as an Australian citizen.
"We holidayed in Queensland as a family when the kids were very small… and I believe that visit and the dives on the Great Barrier Reef set a hook for them to want to live here," says Bill.
"Penny ate kangaroo meat for the first time, and cried before she tried it, then loved it!" Planning 'time out' with his children the one-time ballet dancer, firefighter and ice-cream maker, says there's no question mixing travel with endurance events offers the best 'break' from his busy working life.
Japan's Takashi Ohya, meanwhile, has discovered a new lease of life, post-retirement. At 73, the former exploration geophysicist, from Kyoto, has competed in triathlons for just three years.
"I do it for fun, but most importantly to meet young people," says Takashi. "When I worked, I was almost the boss and so everyone said 'Hello Mr Ohya' and never used my first name. Now I can talk to young people very easily. I can join their party."
While Takashi's wife and daughter do not compete in IRONMAN events, they always cheer from the sidelines.
"I'm proud to compete on Father's Day," he says. "But what would make me very happy is if my daughter finds a nice partner in Australia… a nice Aussie."
Another who competed in the IRONMAN 70.3 World Championship, American Steven Bonawitz, 55, a physician who specialises in plastic and reconstructive surgery in New Jersey, was proud to qualify with his 23-year-old daughter, Katie.
"My son and daughter inspired me to take up endurance sports," said Steven, who has finished six 70.3 and three full IRONMAN events with one or both of his children.
"It started three years ago when they challenged me to do a marathon... a triathlon was next and it's been non-stop since.
Age, however, was no barrier for the oldest competitor in the IRONMAN 70.3 World Championship. At 80, New Zealander, Garth Barfoot, will travel to the Sunshine Coast on the back of a trip to Rio to watch the Olympics.
"Being in Rio, watching the Olympics, has given me a taste of what it means to take part in an event with athletes from all over the world," says Garth, who started competing in IRONMAN events when he turned 60.
"I've been doing my swim training for the world champs in the luxury pool at the Sheraton in Rio. Everyone thinks I must be retired, but the truth is I work four full days a weeks and am classified by Statistics NZ as a full time worker."