For a decade Greg Welch was the world’s dominant triathlete and iron man. He won four world titles (1990 Triathlon; 1993 Duathlon; 1994 Ironman and 1996 Long Distance Triathlon), multiple Triathlon World Cups (1996-99). He was three times US champion and twice Japan champion. After being in peak form after winning the US pro championships in 1999, a heart condition robbed him of his chance to win inaugural gold when the triathlon was introduced to the Olympic Games at Sydney in 2000. He continues to serve the sport as coach and commentator.
Greg Welch (b 1964, Campsie NSW) took up cross country running when he was a 14 year old but when he decided to add the disciplines required to be triathlete he faced real challenges, particularly in swimming (his coach described him as “swimming as though he had a bag of bricks tied to his ankles). In his first triathlon, a local event in 1985, he finished near the rear of the field. Typically though, he persevered, giving himself a punishing swimming schedule, and in 1990 won the World Olympic distance championship in his first outing as a professional.
1994 IRONMAN TRIATHLON WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP
1990 WORLD TRIATHLON CHAMPIONSHIPS
1993 WORLD DUATHLON CHAMPIONSHIPS
1996 WORLD LONG DISTANCE TRIATHLON CHAMPIONSHIPS
NAMED 1994 TRIATHLETE-OF-THE-YEAR
NAMED 1994 SPORTS STAR OF THE YEAR
TRIATHLETE & COMPETITOR MAGAZINES
NAMED 1994 SPORTS STAR OF THE YEAR
CALTEX GOLD OSCAR FOR NEW SOUTH WALES, AUS.
1992 & 1994 IRONMAN/JAPAN TRIATHLON
MULTIPLE-TIME WINNER TRIATHLON WORLD CUP (1996-99)
1999 MRS. T’S CHICAGO TRIATHLON
1997 WORLD NATURE GAMES TRIATHLON
1997 & 92 ESCAPE FROM ALCATRAZ TRIATHLON
U.S. PRO CHAMPION
1992, 93 & 99 U.S. PRO TRIATHLON CHAMPIONSHIPS
1992 AUSTRALIAN SPRINT TRIATHLON CHAMPIONSHIPS
1991 IRONMAN TRIATHLON WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS
1990 COMMONWEALTH GAMES TRIATHLON
1989 & 1996 IRONMAN TRIATHLON WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS
1994, 95 & 96 TRIATHLON GRAND PRIX SERIES
IRONMAN WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS
PL. DATE SWIM BIKE RUN TOTAL
11 1999 0:54:28 4:53:19 2:46:51 8:40:50
3 1996 0:51:23 4:35:43 2:51:51 8:18:57
4 1995 0:51:47 4:46:31 2:50:56 8:29:14
1 1994 0:50:22 4:41:07 2:48:58 8:20:27
6 1992 0:49:32 4:37:20 3:00:01 8:26:53
2 1991 0:51:02 4:45:21 2:48:10 8:24:34
5 1990 0:51:51 4:52:20 3:01:56 8:46:07
3 1989 0:51:39 4:43:43 2:56:53 8:32:16
It was a tragedy that a man who had commanded his body to perform such Herculean feats for more than a decade should finally have his greatest prize snatched from him by an illness that even his iron will could not defy.
Greg had worked assiduously with other triathletes and sporting organizations to have the discipline included in the Olympic calendar and there was jubilation when it was included in the program for the 2000 Sydney Olympics.
The stage appeared set for Greg Welch’s finest hour. In 1999, he was at the peak of his form after winning the World Cup for the third successive year and he had every reason to believe that he could engrave his name for posterity as the first Men’s Olympic Trialthlon champion — and do so in front of hundreds of thousands of cheering fans in his home city.
Then he was diagnosed with ventricular tachycardia and the nine open heart surgery operations that followed put paid to any thoughts of future competition.
Impact on the sport
Although the ventricular tachycardia denied Greg Welch the chance of Olympic gold, his place in the pantheon of Australian triathletes is secure -not just for his athletic success but for the role he played in popularising the sport in Australia.
His articulate enthusiasm won devotees while he was till a competitor but became an even greater asset for the sport after his retirement from competition in his roles as commentator, advisor and coach.