Hervey Bay's Gary Pearce and Nick Downes with dual Olympian Courtney Atkinson, middle, before the inaugural Ironman 70.3 Sunshine Coast.
Hervey Bay's Gary Pearce and Nick Downes with dual Olympian Courtney Atkinson, middle, before the inaugural Ironman 70.3 Sunshine Coast. Contributed

Bay larrikins join Olympian in Ironman

WHEN one of Australia's greatest triathletes started looking for two new teammates, he probably didn't have these two blokes in mind.

Nick Downes and Gary Pearce, a couple of self-confessed Hervey Bay larrikins, were the envy of all other competitors after they were chosen by dual Olympian Courtney Atkinson to partner him in the inaugural Ironman 70.3 Sunshine Coast on Sunday.

Sporting tight pink vests, compression socks and funky trunks, the duo, both 45, set off in the long distance triathlon.

With their supportive wives cheering them on, Pearce took to the water for the opening 1.9km swim leg while Downes hit the pavement for the 21km run.

Downes said having the chance to share the stage with Atkinson, who cruised out on his bike for the 90km cycle leg, was one of the greatest moments of his life.

"To be a part of a team that has a dual Olympian; it's pretty amazing," he said.

"We're still pinching ourselves.

"We had a ball."

Downes and Pearce got to join Atkinson, the 2011 Hervey Bay Triathlon champion, after drumming up support on Facebook to win a social media competition.

Fortunately for the pair, speed and age wasn't a factor in Atkinson's final decision, picking them as a reward for their major contribution to the sport through their work with the Hervey Bay Triathlon Club as well as their down-to-earth personalities.

"We like to have a bit of fun and even though we're older and slower and not overly serious, we've still got time to challenge ourselves," Downes said.

"We've got own Facebook group called Gaz and Nicko's where we share funny things.

"A lot of our friends got on there and with the support behind us we created a bit of momentum on Courtney's Facebook page and I think he was left with no other option."

Even though Atkinson is a serious and competitive athlete, Pearce said he was a great sport.

"He wasn't really keen on handing out advice, but I think he was really curious in finding out from our perspective why people in our position in life, who are slower and older and working full-time, put ourselves through training and still compete," he said.

"He made it more about us than him, which I thought was fantastic."



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