World Triathlon Royalty Inspired by Personal Tragedy

Aussie sports superstar Loretta Harrop etched her name into triathlon history during a glittering career highlighted by becoming world champion and winning an Olympic silver medal at the 2004 Athens Games.
Former World Triathlon champion Loretta Harrop, pictured recently at her Gold Coast home, still enjoys keeping fit.
From a strong swimming background where she represented Queensland in the pool, Loretta was introduced to the sport by her late brother Luke and despite almost no cycling experience and not being a brilliant runner, she soon took a liking to it and quickly developed into a serious competitor.
 
In 1994, after initial success on the local Queensland scene, Loretta and Luke raced in Japan, finishing third and fourth respectively in their races and from there, Loretta’s multisport career quickly began to flourish.
 
In 1997, she joined the ITU (International Triathlon Union) circuit and in that first year achieved a podium finish at the Sydney leg of the world tour.
 
Two years later, she became number one in the world, winning the world title in Montreal with a brilliant performance which saw the first five placings all filled by Australian athletes, illustrating how strong triathlon racing was in Australia at that time and no other country has achieved that milestone.
Her race plan was simple over the gruelling 1500m swim, 40km bike, 10km run courses. Go hard in the swim, her best discipline, retain that intensity on the bike leg and build up a buffer where she could hold off the faster runners in the final leg. She trained so hard, was mentally as tough as they come and was confident no other athlete was as well prepared as her.
 
By employing those tactics, not only did she give herself the best chance of success, she also mentally destroyed a good proportion of the field early in the race because they would just get left too far behind.
 

Her race plan was simple over the gruelling 1500m swim, 40km bike, 10km run courses. Go hard in the swim, her best discipline, retain that intensity on the bike leg and build up a buffer where she could hold off the faster runners in the final leg.

At her first Olympics race in 2000, Loretta wasn’t far off the pace being up in the leading group right the way through and finished a creditable fifth.
 
The Brisbane born star’s career continued with regular success but in 2002 tragedy struck her family when her beloved brother Luke was killed in a hit and run crash while out training on his bike on the Gold Coast, the person driving a stolen car. Devastated by this, coming after also losing her mum Dianne to cancer when Loretta was 18, she used her grief as a motivation to go even harder and chase an Olympic medal.
 
She admits it was really tough trying to train and at times she would burst into tears during training but, spurred on by Luke’s memory and her own fierce determination, she arrived at the Athens Olympic Games in top form, confident she would race well and it turned out to be one of the greatest Olympic Games finishes.

She rated her performance that day as one of her best and said she gave it everything and had nothing left at the finish.

Employing her usual go hard from the gun tactics, Loretta shot clear and led into the final 10km run leg by over two minutes. However Austrian competitor Kate Allen, who was born in Australia, produced the race of her life and overtook Loretta just a couple of hundred metres from the finish line.
 
Although not winning the race, Loretta was thrilled and proud to win an Olympic Games medal, something she had aimed at doing for a long time and which she knew would have made her brother Luke and mum Dianne extremely proud.
 
She rated her performance that day as one of her best and said she gave it everything and had nothing left at the finish.
Loretta Harrop proudly displaying her Olympic Games silver medal
Over-all in a fantastic career, Loretta won 12 ITU events including the World title, finished runner/up in seven others and third in another.
 
Although she rarely races now, apart from in her brother Luke’s Memorial event, she runs and swims most days to keep fit and still looks as though she could go out and smash most multisport fields apart at the age of 46.
 
Sport is a huge part of Loretta’s household. Husband Brad Jones is a Queensland Hall of Fame AFL star and her two children are both rising Aussie tennis stars both representing Australia. Fifteen year-old son Hayden is playing in this months junior Wimbledon tournament and daughter Emerson,13, is off to compete at the World junior tennis champs in the Czech Republic.
 
Loretta very kindly agreed to an interview and I caught up with her at the family home on the Gold Coast where she told her story for absolutelyfamous which I was extremely grateful for.
Click in below and listen to this wonderful yarn with one of Australia’s great sporting champions.

Interview & Story by John Alexander | Supporting Images sourced by Absolutely Famous.

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