Think you know Professional Triathlete Richie Cunningham?
If serving in the military, a young love for tennis and working on an ostrich farm doesn’t ring a bell, read on.
What other sports did you play when you were younger? Did you ever think you’d be a Professional athlete?
RC “I played lots of sports when I was younger, but the first sports I got interested in were tennis and running. My dad started off running and I used to chase him to try and keep up. I also did a lot of waterskiing and Australian football. Early on I wanted to be a pro tennis player. I was a little brat as a kid and I ran away from home once. The police picked me up in the middle of the night on my bike. The officer asked me what I was going to do with my life and I told him I wanted to be a pro tennis player. He laughed at me. I don’t think I ever played tennis after that.”
Early in your career, how hard was it to start out as a new pro?
RC “Starting out as a pro was probably about the hardest thing I’ve had to do. I was in the military for 4-5 years. After leaving a secure job and chasing the dream of being a pro triathlete, the first couple of years was a really big struggle. I spent the first years, like all triathletes in Australia, on unemployment. Even my first couple of trips to Europe were extremely hard. I just managed enough money to get a return ticket for the next year each time. Just as I was about to give up and quit the sport, a friend lent me enough money to get a plane ticket to race ITU cup in Portugal. I managed to podium there, which gave me enough money to do the rest of the series and that pretty much kicked off my career.”
Why were the first few years so hard in triathlon?
RC “Two reasons. One is that I was a very bad swimmer. It took me a long time to learn how to swim open water. I was fortunate enough to find a swim coach who was willing to help and teach me to swim open water as opposed to pool swimming. The other reason I struggled so much was early in my career I had a broken rib that was rubbing on the nerves at the back of my rib cage. Every time I ran hard, I would get a stitch. This got worse over 3-4 years until I found a doctor in Germany who figured out what it was and removed the rib.”
If you could tell a new pro anything, what would it be?
RC “I’d tell them not to be such spoiled brats. Everyone seems to want a handout these days and expects sponsors to come flowing in as soon as they get a pro card. You have to earn them first.”
Other than being a professional triathlete, what is the coolest job you’ve held?
RC “Shortly after leaving the army I went and worked on a farm and raised ostriches.”
What’s your secret to longevity in this sport?
RC “I’ve been extremely lucky. In 20 years, I’ve had very few injuries. Other than bike crashes, I don’t think I’ve missed more than a few days due to injuries. RecoveryPump has made a huge difference in helping me recover, especially as I get older. Also, I think there’s two parts to staying healthy and having a long career in triathlon that a lot of athletes don’t realize.
1. You have to love the sport and competing
2. You have to love the lifestyle. A lot of people train hard, but see it as an inconvenience. I see so many people in Boulder who just seem miserable training sometimes. They just want to get training done for the day rather than enjoying the triathlete lifestyle.
“Also, I’m Benjamin Button. I get younger every year. ”
It’s no wonder Richie’s a legend in the sport of Triathlon. His hard work and honesty have made him who he is today. We’re looking forward to seeing him rack up Kona points at the innagural Ironman Boulder in August and then watch him race in the lava fields for the very first time in his career this October.