Friday, September 7, 2007

Charley French wins gold at Hamburg triathlon

Ketchum man finishes first in 80+ age division

Express Staff Writer

Courtesy photo- Charley French, one of the Wood River Valley?s latest world champions, is shown being congratulated by a race official after finishing the Hamburg Triathlon World Championships last weekend in Germany. French, an 81-year-old Ketchum resident, won the gold medal in the men?s 80+ age division.

One of the Wood River Valley's latest world champions is long-time Ketchum resident 81-year-old Charley French, who made a quick trip to Germany last weekend to bring home a gold medal from the Hamburg Triathlon World Championships.

"I think I was the oldest one there," French said Wednesday, after arriving home Tuesday night.

He may have been the oldest, but his finishing time in the three-sport event was faster than many of the younger competitors.

"I was definitely not the last, which was good," he said.

French, a member of Team USA, swam, cycled and ran the Hamburg course in three hours, 12 minutes and 29 seconds to win the gold medal in the men's 80+ division. The event included a 1500-meter wetsuit swim, a 40-kilometer bicycle ride and a 10-kilometer run.

The best time for the event was recorded by Germany's Daniel Unger, who finished at 1:43:18 to win the men's elite championship.

Unger and French were among some 2,500 athletes from all over the world who competed at Hamburg.

But it was a trip that French almost didn't make. He'd planned the trip for months, but cancelled all his reservations on Tuesday, Aug. 28, when the Castle Rock Fire forced him to evacuate his home in Warm Springs.

When the mandatory evacuation was lifted two days later, French decided he'd go to Hamburg anyway. He made last minute travel arrangements the night of Aug. 30, caught a flight to Europe the following morning, arrived in Hamburg on Saturday and competed in the triathlon on Sunday.

He returned to the Wood River Valley Tuesday night, and could be found Wednesday at Scott USA on Lewis Street in Ketchum where he works part time.

"All my flights were on time and no lost luggage," said French. "It was a good trip for a change."

Although the trip was somewhat of a rushed affair, French, who has been competing in triathlons for 23 years, said it was well worth the effort.

"Luckily I finished the race and did well or it wouldn't have been worth it," he said.

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