Gunnedah triathlete Donna Hickey rose to the challenge when her son Jack encouraged her to join him in the 70.3 Triathlon in Hobart on February 5.

Now 65 years of age Donna, had not raced a significant Triathlon for several years but this all changed when Jack (30) rang his mother in October and said: “I’m going to enter a triathlon and you should come and do it as well.”

Donna was keen to do something with her son even if it was just an excuse to visit him in Tasmania.

A former world age group sprint distance champion and eight-time Australian age group champion over the years, Donna was taken by surprise but immediately agreed to the challenge.

Jack then revealed that the race was an Ironman 70.3 – that’s 70.3 miles in the USA after which the race is named and 113.14 kilometres in Australia.

Although he had never raced that distance before Jack thought it might be fun and he didn’t have to travel far for the race, which consisted of a 1.9 km swim and a 90 km bike ride, with a 21.1 km run to finish the race.

Launceston is only a two-hour drive from the Tasmanian capital Hobart, where the race was to be held, after Hobart purchased the rights to the event for three years.

Jack was a junior national champion in both cycling and triathlon and a runner-up at a world age group triathlon championship before gaining a professional licence to race in the Olympic pathway as a 17-year-old.

Racing for Australia on many occasions and mixing with Australia’s best at the AIS Training facility in Aix Les Banes, in Western France, Jack was one of three triathletes selected to race for Australia in the 2012 (International Triathlon Union (ITU) world championships in Beijing, China.

Jack finished 12th that day and continued to train and race as a professional for a couple of years in the Australia Olympic program.

Despite not racing for several years due to injury Jack finished the 70.3 triathlon race in 12th position overall and was the third age grouper across the line in a time of four hours 11 minutes, while Donna scored a hard-fought win to reunite with her son for a momentous family day.

Jack was the first to enter the event after deciding his body would stand up to a race after a seven-year layoff from triathlon following some knee issues that had to be sorted.

Jack had dropped out of the sport to concentrate on his work as a physiologist, on the Gold Coast originally, before heading over to Launceston on the Spirit of Tasmania.

He has remained fit and healthy with some gym work and was able to eventually ride in local groups before racing his bike again. 

He also did some work in the pool and eventually began to do some light running.

It was the first long distance triathlon held in Hobart but Jack had raced there a number of times in the Olympic program over the years.

With the challenge set they both began training in earnest with ‘finishing the race’ as a main goal.

Cold and windy conditions on the Saturday made them both a little nervous but come race day on Sunday the weather was perfect for racing.

Jack started just after the professionals in the first group of age group triathletes and led the race from then on until he was passed in the final five kilometres of the run leg.

He crossed the line with the announcer Peter Murray – a legend in the sport himself – yelling to the crowd “welcome back to triathlon Jack Hickey”.

Donna, however, was in a battle of her own out on the course and Jack quickly recovered enough to support his mother with verbal encouragement as she went from race leader after the swim leg to an 18-minute deficit at the end of the bike leg.

Running is Donna’s best discipline, however, and with each step she was quickly gaining on her rival, finally catching up after the fastest run for her age group with one kilometre left to run – both women gave it all they had with Donna first across the line. 

“Jack is now tempted to race in the professional ranks again and is keen to do another 70.3 Ironman,” his father John Hickey said.

“Donna on the other hand needs a rest and may not race again this year unless she can find a very small race somewhere in NSW that doesn’t require a lot of travelling to get to there.”

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