Craig “Crowie” Alexander OAM could well have been running around in a Socceroos jersey if it wasn’t for a televised triathlon race in Hawaii back in the ‘80s that changed his life forever - eventually drawing him to the sacred grounds of Kona.
Joining names like Greg Welch, Miles Stewart OAM, Brad Bevan, Emma Snowsill OAM and Emma Moffatt – Alexander’s name etched forever into the annals of triathlon in Australia and around the world.
His five world titles included three Hawaiian IRONMAN World Championships (2008, 2009 and 2011 and second in 2007 to fellow Australian Chris McCormack) and a former record holder (2011) who grew up playing soccer in Sydney – a sport he had played for some 15 years.
“It’s very humbling of course to be inducted into the Triathlon Australia Hall of Fame - everyone likes a pat on the back for a job well done.....well this is a big pat on the back for me, I’m very proud to be inducted into a who’s who of the sport,” said Alexander.
“Triathlon in Australia is a sport that’s certainly punched above its weight and we have had some real icons of Australian sport so when I received the call from Triathlon Australia CEO Tim Harradine I was absolutely delighted.
“That’s the great thing about sport ..every sport is built on its traditions and its history...and in Australian triathlon we have an awesome sporting history.
“I am most proud of the experiences and the lessons the sport has taught me and how consistent I was, also my versatility and longevity in the sport.”
A 12-time Australian Champion, Alexander won an Australian title at sprint distance and was able to compete across all different distances, breaking the Hawaii IRONMAN record that had lasted for 15 years – a record he held for a decade and adding the World 70.3 title.
Becoming only the fourth man to defend his Kona title in 2008 and 2009 and then to win a third Kona crown in 2011 in that record time of 8 hours 03 minutes and 56 seconds.
Reflecting on his career this week Alexander said that when he first saw triathlon it wasn’t in the Olympics, the first triathlon he ever saw was in the late 80s and it was an Hawaiian IRONMAN on television.
“I was a soccer player as a kid and I was more of a speed athlete growing up....I would always be better at the shorter distance events at the school carnivals.,” said Alexander.
But there was something about Kona that really grabbed him and he kept tuning in to it year after year.
“I started following the sport more broadly with some big Australian names racing well overseas, like Greg Welch and Michellie Jones and other races came to my attention like St Croix and Chicago and I started following the sport more and more.
“I got into it more seriously after Greg (Welchy) won Hawaii in1994 but amazingly I didn’t do an IRONMAN myself until I was 34 in 2007 and broke the race record at 38 in 2011.”
So while time waits for no one, it waited for Alexander, who plied his trade in the Formula One events in Australia before forging his career on the lucrative US circuit for over a decade.
To this day Alexander remains oldest ever winner of the Hawaiian IRONMAN World Championship at 38.
“The US is where everyone went to race so I cut my teeth over there and really loved the racing and did really well at it and achieved had some good results,” said Alexander.
“But there was something about Kona that appealed to my personality.
“The challenge and the length of it appealed to me – and it was always about Hawaii for me, although I did love the short course racing I think it was inevitable I was going to get to Kona.
“To race there was a privilege, let alone finishing on the podium, it was amazing just to be there and carry on the legacy of other Australians who qualified to race there...it’s a special race.
“I say to people who are not familiar with the sport – it’s like Wimbledon to a tennis player – it has the history and everything that goes with an iconic event.
“The sport has blossomed into a lot of other amazing things; a lot of it started there in Kona which is sacred ground for triathletes.
“Part of the reason I went is because we had such a good record in Kona...Greg Reddan, Greg Stewart, Bruce Thomas, so many athletes who finished in the top ten in Kona and then there was (two of the greats) Chris McCormack and Michellie Jones.
“It just felt like that as an Australian we had a chance; you carried a lot of confidence because so many Australians had done so many amazing things there, it certainly was for me....
“I went there thinking this is not just a race for the Americans and the Europeans we can hold our own over here and I knew all the results of all the Australians who went over there..it gave me confidence.
“We did well there and we punched above our weight every year.
“I went to Kona to train for two weeks in 2006..when I knew I was going to step up and race the following year and it was just amazing to ride over there, to train, having watched the coverage on television so many times...getting down on the Pier it felt like I’d been there before...the atmosphere, everything about it was amazing.....it was everything I thought it would be actually...
“There are certain things that you have to go through the race to learn; you can read it in a book and watch all the Hawaiian IRONMAN races throughout the course of the history of the race but you have to do the race to learn some things..
“It taught me what the race was all about....rather than just reading about it in a magazine or watching all the previous editions on television....it also taught me that I was good enough.
“I just needed to back myself a little more...I was very conservative that first year (in 2007)....and that’s all part of gaining the experience there.
“It gave me confidence moving into 08 and that I had the physical attributes to do very very well there ...and I was on track with my training and my preparation...I just changed my mindset and attacked the race a lot more, having confidence in myself.
In 2011, everything lined up perfectly - he was still in great physical condition.
“And mentally I was in a great spot, with a young supportive family and I had a lot of people around me, good people, smart thinkers that gave me the opportunity at that age,” said Alexander.
A Kona winner at 34, a Kona record holder at 38 and a Triathlon Australia Hall of Famer at 49...Craig “Crowie” Alexander – take a bow.