Given London’s recent cold snap, Kreol Magazine didn’t need much invitation to move our butts in an effort to keep warm. But then meeting up with fresh-faced triathlete Nick Baldwin inspired us to pledge keeping up the exercise when the sun finally returns to the metropolis.
Still only 24, the Seychellois athlete’s accomplishments include success in several races, and he’s also the current 70.3 Ironman World Champion for his age group. A role model for his generation, he spoke with a clarity and conviction that belied his tender years. South of England born and raised, Nick nevertheless spent a chunk of his childhood in his mother’s home island of the Seychelles. Although he has dual nationality as his father’s British, Nick chooses to represent the beautiful islands of the Seychelles when he races. He also carries the Seychelles flag across the line at the finish. Explaining why, he reddens somewhat with pride.
“There are no other Seychellois triathletes competing, so… I was very proud to be the only one and getting a bit of recognition for Seychelles from the crowd, from the world, and… it still, to this day, really rewarding to see Seychelles get a bit of publicity in triathlon media around the world.”
The handsome athlete played several sports at school, including cricket and football, but he never considered triathlon racing. His interest in the sport began when he turned 17. A television programme called Ironman Lanzarote inspired the athlete to begin racing triathlons. The Lanzarote race included a marathon of 26.2 miles and a 2.4 mile swim. The endurance of the competitors in the race left Baldwin ‘completely in awe’.
“I thought right then and there that that’s something I wanted to do, and from that moment on, I started training. I started to go to the pool, I started to do a few runs, and… during the week, I got my father’s old road bike from the back of the garage, and took that out for a few spins.”
The athlete completed his first race six months afterwards when he was 18. With no trainer to spur him on, he admits he was very much an amateur at the time. A status which impacted on his final showing on his triathlon debut.
“My first race wasn’t a good result. I wasn’t competitive, or… it wasn’t something that came very naturally to me, so I’ve had to work hard at it. I think I came, maybe 58th out of 62. So I was a long way from the front , but… at that stage, it was all about enjoying it and just having fun and that was very much my focus at the beginning .”
Nick combined training and racing with studying for a degree in Business Economics and French at Cardiff University in Wales. This required an enormous amount of determination and selfmotivation. The young man completed his degree, but he decided not to pursue a career in the corporate world. His success in triathlon racing convinced him to devote himself to the sport instead. During Nick ’s first five years of competing, he trained himself. He had no coach, but his strategy proved successful. He soon did well in the competitions, completing several Ironman finishes. Recently, he attained the Ironman 70.3 world championship for his age group. This triathlon included a 1.2-mile swim, a 56-mile bicycle ride and a 13.1 mile run in the heat of the Las Vegas summer. The race required supreme fitness and the capacity for extreme endurance.
“As the years went by, and as I dedicated more effort to training and racing, the improvements came, and within 3-4 years, I started to do quite well in races, and that’s when I realised that if I continued to work at it, there’s potentially a future…within the sport.”
Although Nick loves competing in triathlon races, he finds the sport extremely tough. Which only goes to show that deep down, despite his superhuman performances, he’s human after all.
“Ironman is commonly referred to as one of the hardest 1-day endurance events that you can possibly do. It’s obviously back-to-back-to-back, so there’s no breaks in between, you just finish the swim, you get straight on the bike, and then when you’re done on the bike, you get straight on the run. There’s no stopping in between, so it really is a tough enduring event, and also the races you do are in climates that are quite tough and oppressive.”
Climates like Hawaii, where the world championships are held, and where there’s excessive humidity and tremendously high temperatures. Putting it mildly, Nick reveals:
“Those environmental factors can make the race quite challenging.”
Nick has a tough schedule of training, which is sent to him by email from his coach in the U.S. He often spends 20-30 hours of training a week. He finds it difficult to train alone, so he likes to train with other athletes in the U.S. Last year he trained for 5-6 months in the U.S. Nick said that the training facilities are very good there, and that the U.S. provides him with the option to train with other high-performing athletes.
“That in itself is almost priceless. It’s a very difficult and taxing sport physically, but also mentally, especially when you’re doing all of the training on your own, so if you can get out with other likeminded athletes who are at a high level and better than you, you can really get the most out of your training and hopefully make some really good gains.”
Although the athlete finds triathlon extremely challenging and demanding, he said that it has the advantage of being a ‘very friendly and open sport’. He loves to catch up with friends who he met through competing. He said that many triathlets are relaxed and easy-going people.
“I’ve met lots of really nice people who I’ve kept in touch with, and I can catch up with throughout the year whenever I’m on my travels, so that’s really nice.”
Nick Baldwin also stated that whilst the issue of drugs besets several sports, triathlon remains ‘relatively clean’. The drugs problem is far less rife in triathlon racing, he thinks. The athlete said that this is probably because competitors receive far less prize money than in other sports, such as cycling. Few triathlon participants have been caught taking performance-enhancing drugs. Unfortunately, Nick thinks that the drug problem will worsen as the prize money increases. He favours the governing bodies taking a tough stand and implementing drug testing, so that athletes who take performance-enhancing drugs face reprimands.
“There are no other Seychellois triathletes competing, so… I was very proud to be the only one and getting a bit of recognition for Seychelles from the crowd”
Nick tries to be someone fellow young Seychellois can look up to, and seizes the opportunity to promote the Seychelles when he competes. He also promotes sports in the Seychelles and the Seychelles through his sponsors and social media. Baldwin’s sponsors include the ISPC Seychelles, Eden Island Marina, Vijay Construction and Air Seychelles. He supports his sponsors through social media, such as Facebook and Twitter, and by being their representative in the sporting arena.
The athlete turned professional this year, and he hopes to win more races and accolades. He recently won the Seychelles 10K run easily. He also did exceptionally well in his last amateur race in Abu Dhabi, winning the 18-24 age-group in my final amateur race and finishing 11th overall including all professionals.
“This was the highest overall placing I’ve achieved at a big international event and gives me a lot of confidence ahead of making my professional debut at Ironman South Africa on 14th April.”
Nick Baldwin certainly is the poster boy for Seychelles sport. He exemplifies the qualities of the best athletes, including perseverance, determination, confidence and hard work. His future looks bright.