It’s hard to believe these three champions are from the same family.
The Simpson siblings are gifted athletes, but when it comes to Triathlon, they are ALL off the charts.
Daniel 20, and Liam 17, have gone from strength to strength over the last couple of years of their young careers dominating the local Cairns Triathlon Circuit and achieving outstanding results at State and National events. After finishing school, they have both moved to the Gold Coast to train under Dane Robinson as part of the Queensland Development Squad, one step away from the Queensland Talent Squad and the ITU World Triathlon series.
Liam and Daniel’s sister Emma, only 15, has catapulted her way into an elite position within Triathlon in just 12 months. Prior to this, she was a swimmer, ready to compete at Nationals in Adelaide 2016. She withdrew however after qualifying for the event when she realised her heart was no longer in it, and immediately set her sights on Triathlon. She began training with her brothers and the TAS Triathlon Squad in Cairns, coached by Michael Haseldine.
In one short year, she made the Queensland team and recently competed in Nationals placing 6th in a recent event in Sydney. She has recently been selected into the Queensland Emerging Talent Squad which is the top squad for her age together with only 8 others.
Please enjoy this light-hearted interview with three extremely talented siblings from Cairns.
When your alarm goes off in the morning, do you lie there and dread it or are you rearing to go?
E: I wake up easily. Generally, I am a morning person.
L: I say to myself “Get up and do training so you can go back to sleep later.” I don’t have too much trouble getting up.
D: I struggle waking up. It takes me ten minutes to get myself together. Emma wakes up earlier than all of us. I tend to cut it as close as I can…like wake up and then in the car.
L: On the Gold coast, I would wake up 15 minutes earlier than Daniel because I need to eat before training. I can’t train with no food on board.
D: I don’t eat as much as Liam. Before training, I’ll have a muesli bar and an up and go, sometimes not even that much.
Before training in the morning, what do you eat?
E: I have a Milo
L: I’ll have two pieces of toast and Milo, and then after training I have baked beans on toast or eggs on toast.
D: Before training, all I can eat is a muesli bar. Sometimes two, but that’s all I can eat, and water.
On race day, what would you eat before a race?
E: A piece of toast, an up and go and maybe half a winners bar (energy bar from Coles)
L: Three pieces of toast and a small Milo, and just before my race I might have a banana so I don’t get hungry
D: A piece of toast and a muesli bar, but not heaps because I just can’t stomach it. Liam eats way more than I do.
If you didn’t do triathlon, what would you do?
E: Swimming. I think I would’ve enjoyed Hockey, but it never really happened.
L: Cycling or running I’d say-NO SWIMMING
D: Swimming, but if I couldn’t do swimming or triathlon, I’d ride over running for sure.
CC: It’s funny how none of you said Basketball, Football or Netball for example. It seems you have no regrets or doubt in your mind when it comes to your chosen sport. It’s Triathlon, or part of a triathlon…and that’s very clear.
Liam, you completed school last year at TAS, and Daniel you finished a few years ago. You were training under Michael Haseldine back then. Where are you now and who is your coach?
L: Daniel and I moved down to the Gold Coast this year to train under Dane Robinson. He is an ex ITU Australian Triathlete- He’s done the world circuit.
Tell us about your training schedule?
D: 12 sessions a week. Training every morning except Friday morning. Monday morning is a swim and a run/gym, Tuesday is ride/run, Wednesday is swim/gym/run, Thurs is swim/gym/run, Friday OFF, Sat arvo Bricks and swim occasionally, and Sunday is a run. Sometimes we have Uni so occasionally we miss sessions.
So what are you both studying at Uni?
L: I’m studying business, and it’s going well, I enjoy it.
D: I transferred my degree from JCU in Cairns to Griffith Uni, and I’m studying Business-Law. It’s good. The course is good, the step up is good, the people are good. There are more students at Griffith and the structure is better. There’s a lot more support.
Do your Uni studies suffer as a result of the intensity of your training?
L: We have quite a lot of spare time, so in between training there is plenty of time to study…and sleep.
D: The group that we’re with are pretty much all Uni students, so Dane sets up the training program around our study demands as much as possible which is helpful.
Is your training group of a high standard?
L: Oh yes!
D: Yes. There is one guy on the talent squad, one girl was on the Australian team but now has an injury, there’s one girl going to worlds soon.
So what was the transition from Cairns to The Gold Coast like as far as the intensity of the training goes?
D: It was a massive step up. Our group is composed of young adults, it’s no longer school age triathlon and so the intensity had to increase. You have to watch the intensity of training in school age triathletes because they’re growing and they’ll burn out if it’s too much too soon…but now for us, it’s on. When we first joined we were getting totally smashed over and over again, and we’d come home tired as hell, but now we’ve adjusted and it’s easier. The program up here in Cairns which targets school age athletes has more recovery time than what we get. We are back up here this week for a holiday, and this is the first time we’ve had two sleep-ins since we left.
So you are not taking a break?
L: Nope, we’ve trained for half a week with Michael.
Is there anything about Cairns that your miss?
D: The people
L: The food
CC: But isn’t there food on the Gold Coast Liam?
L: Yes, but we have to keep our budget low so we can live there, and we’re poor Uni students. So when we come home to Cairns, we have so much more food, and a greater variety.
CC: So mum and dad provide you a smorgasbord of delights up here, and when you’re down there, you live on two minute noodles.
L: Pretty much, yep.
Have any of you had any injuries? Any stacks of the bike?
E: I’ve had shoulder injuries during my swimming days as a result of my back muscles tightening up, and I’ve had shin splints.
L: Nothing really. When I was growing up I had growing pains in my knees, but that’s about it.
D: I had problems with my hips at the end of last year from swimming. I was a breaststroker before triathlon and that tightened my hips so much that when I started Triathlon training, my body found it difficult to make the adjustment. It’s good now, I had to do a lot of stretching. My muscles were used to swimming but not riding, so I had to strengthen my glutes and everything else.
E: The worst crash I’ve ever had off the bike was at the Smithfield roundabout when a bus pulled out in front of us. We thought it would wait for us to go past but it didn’t and then one of the guys in the cycling group put on his breaks and I went straight into the back of him. I only took off skin, no more than that luckily.
L: Probably about a year and a half ago when I was in a crit at the Woree track, and I came out of the hairpin, and I think I just hit the hairpin too hard and my front wheel slid out, and I slid about 2-3 metres on my side. I cracked my front fork on my bike and sustained quite a bit of gravel rash.
D: I don’t think I’ve had any really serious race crash injuries, but I was mucking around in training once at a very low speed and came off and injured my elbow. I couldn’t straighten it for a few days and it was quite swollen.
Did it feel strange to run after being a breaststroker?
D: Yes. Especially when your muscles are so built around your hips. With running, it’s totally different, so that took my body some time to get used to. Now, when I try to do breaststroke kick, it feels totally different to how it used to. My muscle strengths are different.
Do you miss swimming Daniel?
D: Oh, I don’t know. I guess now that I’ve moved on, not really, but I have experienced a lot of what swimming had to offer especially in the region and at states. We went to states a million times, and I really enjoyed that, so I’d never change the fact that I was a swimmer first.
Do you miss swimming Emma? Because you were a very talented swimmer making Nationals and dominating the region for your age.
E: No, not as much. I’d been swimming for years and I lost interest. It was too repetitive for me. Triathlon training is a lot more varied, with different things happening all the time, and different racing environments. I like that.
Emma, do you miss your brothers now they’ve moved away? They were such a part of your life when all three of you trained and lived together.
E: Yes (Laugh)
L and: D (Laugh)
L: She got sick of our complaining though…
That’s lovely and honest. Daniel and Liam, do you miss your parents now you’ve moved away?
L: Well it depends on what you mean by miss. There are some things I miss, but then there are some things I don’t like…I don’t know…
CC: You don’t have to elaborate if you don’t want to…
L: OK. (Laugh)
So how do you go surviving down there with cooking and looking after yourselves?
L: Really good. Daniel and Clio do most of it, I clean up.
D: We just leave Liam to the cleaning section. We cook, and it’s Liam’s job to clean up.
L: I don’t know which is worse…probably cleaning up, but I like cleaning up because I can’t cook at all, so that’s fine. I’m fine with my job.
What are your goals in triathlon?
E: Iron man.
L: See where it takes us really.
D: I think everyone wants to do an Iron man eventually
L: Only when I’m like…35
D: Yes, it would be good to stretch out the sprint and Olympic distances first for a while and see where that takes us, then Iron man later. We are currently training ITU sprint stuff, so that’s our focus, entrance into ITU.
What is your next big race?
E: Nationals in Sydney next week (She came 6th)
L: I don’t know, what is our next thing? We’re in the off season at the moment, there’s nothing big coming up, the last race for us was last weekend.
Do you ever think about giving it up when it gets tough? Obviously the training is grueling.
E: No, never.
L: I don’t think I could. Well if I did, I’d have to pick up another sport.
D: Sometimes, but generally that feeling goes away pretty quickly. That’s what varied training does for you, it breaks up the monotony, and if you are having a bad running day, you might feel a bit better on the bike.
L: I think about giving up swimming every day.
E: Sometimes I think, oh I don’t really want to be here, but because it’s different every day, you just focus on the next thing.
D: Although I hate waking up at 5am for swimming, I know I won’t be doing it every morning, so that’s how I get through it.
Liam, let’s talk about your swimming. I know you haven’t ever really been as keen as Emma and Daniel. What’s that about?
L: Swimming has just never worked for me. I never really learned how to swim. Having said that, I do alright in a triathlon swim-not the best, but alright-because it’s different from pool swimming. There are a lot of tactics involved, you can stick on people’s feet. It’s open water swimming and I’m much better at open water swimming than I am at pool swimming, so pretty much I just stand next to Daniel in the line and just hop on his feet and try to hold on.
Is it true that you don’t really need to be a great swimmer to be good at triathlon?
D: To a certain extent. In ITU it’s all about the run. You just have to be a strong runner.
L: You do need the swim and the bike to be decent though, to stick on the front for the run.
D: So a good swim could put you in the front group, which is helpful.
L: If you are an average swimmer and an average bike but a brilliant runner, I reckon you’d make a solid triathlete because it’s really a running race at the end of it. BUT, you need to be able to stick with the front group or you’re out. The competition is too good.
CC: But can’t you smash people in the cycle if that’s your strength?
L: It depends on the race. If I race a flat Yorkey’s knob Tri, I can put a lot of distance on people in the ride. But if it’s a race in Brisbane, where there are lots of people on the course, there isn’t much you can do about it, and you pretty much have to wait until the run to make a break. That’s when the strong runners have a huge advantage.
What is your running shoe of choice?
E: Asics Kayano
L: Training-Nike Pegasus, Racing- Asics Paranha, they’re really light, like track shoes. They are easily one of the best racing shoes I’ve ever had. You feel like you have nothing on your feet.
D: I train in Nike Pegasus, and my race shoe is a Nike LunaRacer.
Do you guys drink electrolyte drinks in a race? Like Gatorade etc?
L: To some degree. I wouldn’t rely on them. I prefer water in a race, but after a race I’ll have electrolyte.
E and D: Just water during a race.
What brand are your wheels?
E: Specialised Venge Vias
L: I HAD a BMC, but it got a little crumpled up in a recent unfortunate event.
CC: Oh dear, what happened? Jet star?
L: No. We live in a unit with a type of underground car park. We were really tired from training one day and we forgot about the bike on the roof rack. So we drove into the car park and BANG. This happened last week. We usually stop and take the bike off, but we forgot it was there. We have heard many stories of people who have done the same thing on the Gold Coast, because most students live in units with dodgy car parking. My bike has been replaced with a Trek Madone.
D: I’m on a BMC, and so far, it’s still alive.
Are any of you sponsored?
L: We have bike shops that help us out, but I wouldn’t consider that sponsorship.
CC: So what do you have to do to attract sponsorship?
L:You have to almost be a Semi-Pro
D: I think it’s more about having a really good social media presence, they really look at that. You don’t necessarily have to be the best to attract sponsors, but you have to post a lot. Sponsors expect a certain number of posts per month, and I dropped that a year ago. I just don’t post enough.
L: You are an ambassador for something and so need to sell their product.
E: I had a bit of help from Triathlon Queensland when I made the emerging talent squad. They’ll help out with gear and some things that they believe may improve my performance.
So how do you judge your performance/improvements in triathlon, bearing in mind that each course is different and times and PB’s are not really relevant?
L: You have a race pace for the run, and a certain speed you should be going during the ride and a time you should be hitting in the swim. If you’re off pace, I guess you’re either having a bad day, or you’re not improving.
CC. So do you wear watches during the race?
E: I do sometimes but I always forget to start them.
L: I don’t like wearing a watch when I race.
What is your run race pace during a Sprint Tri?
E: 4min/Km off the bike
D: 3:25-3:35min/km off the bike.
L: If it’s a flat 5km run for time, we’d probably do 3:25/km