Simon Whitfield and Emma Snowsill, winners of the men's and women's elite division of the Life Time Fitness Triathlon, stood on the podium Saturday, their $60,000 winnings in hand.
Greg Bennett, who came in third, lunged onto the stage and toward the top finishers. He gave Snowsill a congratulatory kiss on the cheek -- then offered the same to Whitfield, who outright denied it, before patting Bennett on the back, smiling with appreciation.
Whitfield broke Bennett's course record, finishing in 1 hour, 48 minutes and 1 second. Snowsill finished in 1:58:04 for a series-record third Life Time victory.
Whitfield (Canada) and Snowsill (Australia) will represent their countries at the Olympics in Beijing in August.
On the women's side, second-place finisher Sarah Haskins (USA) and third-place Becky Lavelle, a Minnetonka native (USA alternate), will be there as well. Bennett will be there not to race, but to support his wife, Laura (USA).
Any act of affection Whitfield could muster might not do justice to the gratitude he owes Bennett. When Bennett failed to qualify for the Australian Olympic team in 2000, he moved to Victoria, British Columbia, to assist Whitfield through the training that eventually earned him a gold medal.
"He's someone that had a lot of physical talent, but he never really knew how to train hard," Bennett said. "I came from a bit of an old-school training, where you train really hard. So we teamed up together, and I think I taught him how to hurt a little bit."
The two met 13 years ago at a race in Australia. Bennett was 23, Whitfield 20. Bennett forced Whitfield to hone his physical gifts, driving him to the pool at 5:15 each morning.
"My version [of how we met] is I asked a guy for a ride home from a race, and [Bennett] just happened to be the guy," Whitfield said. "He lived close to where I was living, and I just asked to join his tri-club. His version of the story is I had all his stats and I just wanted to meet him, and I got his autograph. So the truth is probably somewhere in the middle."
The two men, along with second-place finisher Andy Potts -- whose handlebars broke with 15 kilometers left in the bike event but still managed to pull ahead of Bennett in the last 100 yards of the run -- will all be in New York City this week for the second triathlon of the Life Time Series.
While Bennett and Whitfield laugh and joke and call each other names, competition can still get the better of them.
Three weeks ago at the Hy-Vee Triathlon in Des Moines, Whitfield had a disappointing fifth-place finish. Bennett finished third. Both were within 30 seconds of the winner, all the more crushing to Whitfield, who prides himself on having built his career on the last mile of races.
"I love him to death, but he beat me at my stuff, which is [International Triathlon Union events]," Whitfield said. "So to come back here, beat him at his stuff and get a little measure of revenge, it's like an older brother-younger brother rivalry."
Bennett admitted to cramping at times Saturday, but said he's happy to celebrate the success of his disciple.
"Being beaten by Simon and Andy was no disappointment," Bennett said.
"I'll try to get back to them during the rest of the year."Ireland update
Shad Ireland, a kidney dialysis patient and the subject of a recent Star Tribune report, completed the triathlon in 3:29:44.
He finished 142nd among 150 competitors in the men's 35-39 age group in the Olympic-distance race.