Matty celebrating after his Ironman 70.3 South Africa victory on Sunday. Wonderful photo by Chris Hitchcock.
As all saw on the weekend the captain’s victory at Ironman Wales last year was anything but a lucky result. Those who follow us on social media will know we’ve been building a secret weapon in the men’s event for some time now.
His results will also come as little surprise to those who were at camp when Matty joined us for 6 weeks in St Moritz last year.
After tinkering with his swim and run techniques, along with a few adjustments on the bike, all were able to see the massive improvements he was able to make on a day-to-day basis. His success since then has been a revelation and mirrors that of a number of other great athletes who have joined the Sutton squad.
Chrissie Wellington (4 x World Champion) came to camp as a very fast age grouper. As did Beck Preston (4 x Ironman Champion) and Matt’s own countryman, James Cunnama (3 x Ironman Champion). While these guys went on to become heavyweight names, with Top 5 finishes at Kona, to see Matt go from 11th at Ironman 70.3 South Africa in 2014 to just belting a top field at the same race has been something special. It also makes me think that if he continues to listen and execute what he is told by his coach that there is no reason why The Captain can’t be up there with them.
I have fielded some interviews today which included the usual questions:
Obviously you knew he was good, but did you know he was THAT good?
Can he go to Kona and be competitive?
What is his best leg? Where can he make an impact? etc. etc.
So let’s look at some of the answers.
First up, two races does not make a successful career. He still has dues to pay. And while it is too early to start mentioning his name up with some of the top champs, he is moving in the right direction.
As for Kona? At present his swim is his weakest leg and we’ve been working on it since day one. As it was in early 2014 there was no hope in hell of making an impression there. But the captain is a fast learner. A real fast learner. So his swim has been on a steep upward curve. Should it keep improving, then yes he will be a player at the big show.
That brings me to his strengths. Matt’s biggest strength is not swim, bike or run.
No, his biggest advantage to date has been the fact that up until recently he was a full-time professional sailor.
How does that help in triathlon, you may ask. You’re not allowed to sail the boat during the swim leg.
You’re not, but is the very nature of his job is that has allowed him to make the meteoric rise he has in the last 12 months. It has given him three very important advantages over most triathletes:
1) Solitude. He doesn’t feel the need to hang out with other triathletes. He can work on his own and is at ease doing what he needs to do for himself. He doesn’t fall into the trap of doing others training. When he is in camp, he is also a perfect team man. He can adapt to both worlds with ease. Sailing teaches that.
2) Professional sailing is about results. It is only a lifestyle event for the owners of the yachts. The people who work on them need results – if the performance is not there, you are not there. Simple. When I asked why you you want to be coached by me he said: ‘I looked at all the coaches performances. Results told me you are the best. I need the best because I want to be the best.’ That’s my kind of logic.
3) And this is the biggie. He knows having one captain is everything on a ship. You take orders. You don’t like them, tough. You still do them to the best of your ability and find yourself another boat when you’re back in port. Matty came to camp and trialled to make sure he was ready before he bought into the Sutto training. He was told Coach is going to give the orders and you are going to follow them. ‘Yes, sir’ was the answer and we’ve been on an upward curve ever since.
Finally, coming from the sailing background The Captain executes more than just orders. He is strategically very disciplined, which is so important over iron distance races.
Those ingredients make for a very, very formidable opponent as many are going to find out. Well done, Matty. We are proud of your efforts. Stick to the above and you will indeed go very far. I’d bet on it.