Sunday, June 1, 2008

Whitfield targets 'Tiger Woods of triathlon'

Whitfield targets 'Tiger Woods of triathlon'

Canadian obsessed with beating Spain's Javier Gomez

Javier Gomez emerged from the water 17 seconds ahead of Simon Whitfield at last year’s triathlon world championships in Germany. But before he strapped on a helmet and laced up his cycling shoes for the next segment of the race, the Spanish athlete turned and smiled at the Canadian.

"My response was, ‘Touché!’" recalls Whitfield, who finished fourth that day, two spots behind Gomez. "Javier had a really strong swim."

That small gesture in Hamburg still motivates Whitfield nine months later. "I don’t want to be left behind in Beijing," he says about the Summer Games. "I want to beat Javier. He is the best competitor the sport has ever seen. He’s become the Tiger Woods of triathlon."

Gomez, 25, finished last season ranked first in the world, and has won eight of his last 10 events. "He has raised the bar in triathlon," says Brian Mahony, the International Triathlon Union’s media director. "Before, a competitor could be weak in one discipline and still fare well overall, but not anymore. Gomez is strong in swimming, cycling and running."

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