The craze for long distance triathlon is a worldwide phenomenon which has taken the multisport world by storm. Triathlon races are in themselves a test of endurance and fitness perhaps unrivalled in modern sports. Long-distance triathlons (branded under names such as Ironman, Challenge and a myriad other twists of the event-titles) are the ultimate feat of tenacity and stamina, which sees an athlete challenging himself to hours of continuous racing at high intensity.
This phenomenon is not something alien in Malta, and no other Maltese athlete epitomises the feats of long-distance triathletes as the Maltese Ironman, Nicky Farrugia.
Farrugia was one of the pioneers of Maltese Triathlon as he started to race in 1988. Farrugia made this move after an impressive career in long-distance swimming which culminated in his legendary swims from Sicily to Malta in 1985 where he successfully completed this feat in 30 hours and 17 minutes and the 1989 crossing of the English Channel in 12 hours and 40 minutes.
In need of a new sporting challenge Nicky took to triathlon where he was dominated the first half of the 1990s by winning the National Duathlon title in 1993, the National Triathlon Championships in 1990, 1992 and 1995 and the title of Triathlete Of The Year in 1991 and 1995.
Following these successful years, Farrugia turned his focus on long distance triathlons. He become the first ever Maltese to race an Ironman triathlon race which consists of a swim of almost 4 kilometres followed with a 180 kilometre bike ride and finished off with a full marathon of 42 kilometres. His first long-distance triathlon in the Netherlands was a trailblazer not just for Farrugia’s flare with these races, but also for the local community of triathletes who steadily started to venture into endurance triathlon.
Farrugia’s Ironman reputation continued to grow as he became the first Maltese triathlete to go sub 10 hours finish time and also the first Maltese to successfully race a Double-Ironman ultra distance race in the old format which consists of a full iron-distance triathlon done back-to-back after an initial full iron-distance triathlon.
Nicky Farrugia is also the holder of the stunning Maltese record of long-distance triathlons under his belt as he successfully finished his staggering 24th such race only some months ago in Israel, where he capped his performance by claiming second place in his Age Group.
Nicky Farrugia has been recognised as one of the most important Maltese athletes ever and he also received the highest local sporting award when he was crowned as the Sportsman Of The Year in 1989. More recently, Farrugia was inducted in the Maltese Olympic Committee’s Hall of Fame.
Nicky has words of praise for the efforts of the Malta Triathlon Federation to raise the level and develop the sport in Malta. ‘Triathlon Malta today has done huge improvement from the early years . Of course the beginning was thanks to the first group of people who got it going with very limited resources. However today the Federation has a group of people whom under the helm of President Cyprian Dalli understand the needs of the athletes at all levels. This can be seen in the development programme of children and youths and the establishment of the Malta Youth Triathlon Academy-MYTA. The Federation is keen to encourage more foreign competition by its athletes. The number of affiliated clubs organise high-quality races and this resulted in a huge rise of competitors. I really like the fact that that triathlon is becoming huge and understood more and more in all levels and recognised by the national sporting authorities’ states Farrugia, while concluding with a final appeal ‘for us who spend a lot of time on our bikes and running on the streets, we tend to be very vulnerable for traffic accidents and bullying. It is important for drivers to keep a watchful eye for us athletes so that we all can share the road safely’