Multisports: Engineering's loss was big gain for multisport

By David Leggat

Bevan Docherty. Photo / ITU
Bevan Docherty. Photo / ITU

Bevan Docherty, engineer. It could have been the career line, but it sounds odd.

One of New Zealand's great modern athletes did one year of engineering at Canterbury University before, "much to my parents' disappointment at the time," he jacked it in to pursue his dream.

"I was trying to balance sport and engineering and wasn't giving one or the other 100 per cent.

"At the end of the day I just wanted to follow my heart, and sometimes it takes those sacrifices and craziness to achieve something special," Docherty said.

Bevan Docherty, multisport master, sounds better.

He headed for Europe in the late 1990s but success didn't come easily. It took a while to make a real dent. In 2001 Docherty got his first podium finish at a World Cup, in Lausanne.

Having "lived off nothing for two or three years", it was around that time he was able to phone home and tell his parents "I don't have to borrow money off you any more".

A second in the Gamagori World Cup in Japan the following year meant his standing, slowly but surely, was on the rise.

Olympic silver and bronze medals, world champion, argue persuasively that when he was faced with that career path fork, he took the right one.

When he crosses the finish line at the Barfoot & Thompson-sponsored world triathlon series grand final at Queens Wharf on Sunday afternoon, it will be time for the 35-year-old to move on to the next stage of his career.

Kona beckons. Longer distance running is Docherty's next challenge, specifically the Hawaiian Ironman. Just don't think this is the last time Docherty will be seen contesting the classic swim-bike-run event.

If a triathlon fits into his schedule and can help in fulfilling his new ambitions, or he just fancies it, well and good. But his sights are shifting.

When he finished third at the half ironman world champs in Las Vegas last month, it clarified his thinking.

"I've proven myself in the half ironman and I think I've got a very good chance [at Kona]," he said.

"I'm still passionate about the sport ... and I don't want to get a real day job. I'm not saying I'm never going to do [a triathlon] again, but certainly my focus and direction has changed."

He has an eye on the Taupo Ironman and Auckland half ironman in March.

Docherty is not someone who's about to turn dog on the sport from which he's derived such success, and in turn been one of it's shining lights for a decade.

"One cool thing about the sport is you see lots of athletes in other sports who are lost and soul searching after the Olympics because there isn't really a future apart from the Olympics in their chosen sport," he said. "Whereas in this sport there's so many other opportunities. I'm excited to step out of the Olympic campaign to pursue a different side of this sport."

Hamish Carter and Docherty combined to produce that rarest of Olympic achievements, a gold-silver finish in Athens eight years ago. Docherty followed that with bronze in Beijing in 2008. A 12th placing in London in August dashed ambitions for a full hand of medals.

Regrets? There have been disappointments, but they have been more than balanced by a pile of good times and no one else has won back-to-back Olympic medals in the sport.

"As an elite you're a perfectionist. Every race I haven't won is 'I could have done this'. Everyone can say that about their races.

"Athens, I could have done something different and would have had a chance of winning; and Beijing. But I've got no regrets with what I've done. I'm very proud of what I've achieved. There are other goals to focus on now."

Docherty isn't a slave to the in-my-day line of thinking.

"This sport is growing. It's far more competitive but you've got to remember it's a very young sport. So back then what we were achieving was the level. No doubt it's got faster, harder and more competitive. We're still learning the limitations of what we can do as athletes."

And so to this weekend. What chance a final roar from an ageing lion against the younger bucks?

He had a hand in the layout for the course. No one will know it's nuances better.

"I'm by no means super fit, I'm far from peaking. It's been a long year.

"I used a lot of energy up to do well at half ironman and just to keep rolling through to this race has been hard physically and mentally.

"But I still have a chance of doing well. I very much doubt I'll be pushing Javier [Gomez] and Jonathan [Brownlee] to the end. But I'll still be competitive out there."

Docherty recalled that a few weeks ago "I was done, cooked" and thought about pulling out. The lure of the home event, the crowd support, tugged at him. "I just wanted to be part of it. That's what kept me going for the last month, to be part of this and enjoy it for what it is."

- NZ Herald

Docherty prepares to move on to the next stage of his stellar sporting career.

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