Only 11% of entries were accepted from around the globe, so it is no small miracle in itself that these two Durban athletes are winging their way to Australia.
With a year to prepare for the event, Gary Babich and Rowland Visser say that training and competing is more than hours spent outside, it is a mental preparation too. As with all tri-athletes, they have more strength or natural ability in some disciplines more than others, so being mentally prepared is what gets them through. For Gary, the black line at the bottom of the swimming pool is not his friend, but the yellow line on the side of the road, he could follow it anywhere. Rowland laughs that his biggest challenge is putting the wetsuit on!
There is also a very important home life for both men. In fact Rowland says his marriage of 11 years is his longest, and most enjoyable marathon. For Gary, the Melbourne IRONMAN is significant in it geography. Gary's 11-year-old son lives in Melbourne. With so many athletes these days being exposed for bad behaviour, and many families dispersed around the globe, there are few good role models for today's youth. The IRONMAN provides Gary with an opportunity to step up to the plate, and be the role model that a Dad should be to his son. It's a high bar that Gary has set, but he says “To have my son to hug at the at the finish line would make every minute of training worthwhile, we're big on hugs!”
The pair has racked up their fair share of events with no les than 27 Comrades marathons between them. Rowland has been lucky enough to also compete in France and Western Australia. Rowland's biggest event to date is the Cape Epic, a gruelling 8-day mountain bike event. This will be Gary's first international event, he has previously completed the Dusi, Argus and has finished on the podium 10 times for beach marathons from Scottburgh to Brighton.
For both the men, it is the crowds that pull them along. Rowland says, “The thought of being in an event like this, where my involvement might influence or change someone's life for the better, motivates me.”
So to all the South Africans out there, please lets get behind our athletes. Even if you are not in Melbourne, you can wish them well on the Facebook page, http://www.facebook.com/IronManForStreetKids.
If you are anywhere in or near the 226km IRONMAN course, please keep a look out for these two South Africans, wave them on and show your support. They will be racing in their vests for their chosen Charity “Icare”, as pictured above, so please look out and shout out. You can find out the best lookout spots along the Eastlink or Beach road at this website: http://ironmanmelbourne.com/information/spectator-viewing-points/
If you would like to donate to their charity, the money goes to helping Street Kids in South Africa, to get children educated and make a life for themselves.
Online Donations website:https://www.backabuddy.co.za/donate/charity/icare