Reeling back the years – Celebrating 30 years of Bilbys

As we prepare to celebrate the Club’s 30th birthday, we’re looking back at where it all started.

Triathlon as a sport did not really hit the mainstream until the mid-1980s. Prior to that, and leveraging off the global running craze of the 1970s, a number of keen athletes started adding a swim or a cycle to their regular run.

By the late 1970s, semi-organised groups started doing duathlons from a community participation rather than a large scale sporting model.

In Australia, triathlon grew in popularity during the mid-1980s as more people became aware of the new sport. Iconic events such as: the Hawaiian Ironman emerged. In 2000, triathlon officially became an Olympic sport at the Sydney games.

In 1987, Bilbys Canberra Triathlon Club began with a group of firefighters coming together to share a common interest in the sport.

Originally, the Club was Belconnen based with local triathlons held at Lake Ginnindera. There was a tradition of hosting a weekly aquathon at Lake Ginnindera.

Back in the day, triathletes had none of the specialised apparel that we have nowadays. Just your swimmers and off you went!

Gradually the club expanded its membership to become the largest triathlon club in Canberra. After ten years in existence, the Club reached 300 members with continued success for the next 20 years. It’s a tribute to the hard work of the club’s committee and its strong social and community focus.

With the advent of dedicated and enthusiastic committee members such as: David Baldwin, Gary Rolfe, Rob Marshall in the mid-1990s, the club continued to grow and offer training sessions in the three disciplines with well-known coaches, Jeremy Kimpton and Steve Gaffey.

Later, Triathlon ACT (TACT) emerged with a few affiliated clubs. During this time, Sri Chinmoy organised a major triathlon festival in Canberra during March. The event attracted more than 1,000 participants on an annual basis including well-known triathletes, Brad Bevan and Greg Welch. The triathlon was followed by a celebratory function at the Hyatt Hotel.

Back to training

The club’s training sessions have always been well attended. It wasn’t unusual for Civic swim sessions to attract 40 participants on a regular basis.

By late 1990s, Bilbys had developed a club structure similar to what we are now familiar with; annual novice program, weekly training sessions across three race disciplines, branded club kit and a variety of club based races and social events.

As a key supporter, TACT organised four triathlons in Canberra each season. The Bilbys club has always committed resources to assisting TACT: supporting the committee with members like former president, Gary Stevens, and providing help with organising events. The Bilbys has proudly helped to develop triathletes who achieved national and international

success. Whilst Penny Slater is excelling today, past Bilby Michael Gosman represented Australia at the Youth Olympics in 2010.

As the Club celebrates 30 years of success, it’s worth reflecting on some of its strengths including: the social atmosphere at club training and events, the community focus and the friendly welcome for people of all abilities.

None of this success would be possible if it wasn’t for the committed and hard working committee behind the scenes. Tribute to those who have given their time selflessly for the benefit of the Club. Special mention to our Bilbys past presidents: Gary Stevens, Gary Rolfe, Joe Andrews, Jess Faulks, Emma Fielder and today, David Poulter.

The current committee extends an open invitation to all past and present Bilbys club members, partners and friends to join us in celebrating the club’s 30th birthday on Saturday, 19 May at 6.30pm in Teddy Picker’s, Campbell.

Tickets include as much as you can eat and drink for the evening along with the awards presentation, birthday cake and as much music and dancing as you can handle. To book your ticket, please transfer $50.00 to the Bilbys Canberra Triathlon Club. BSB: 062-900 and Account number: 1010-0679. Let’s mark this significant occasion for the Club and thank all those who’ve made Bilbys the success that it is today.