A chat with "Slim" Tim Berkel

24-year old Aussie Tim Berkel recently captured the 2008 Ironman Western Australia title and earned the distinction to be one of the youngest male Ironman champions in the sport's history. The man also known as "Slim" talked to Slowtwitch.com.

ST: Tim, that was a very impressive performance at Ironman Western Australia. Has it sunk in yet?

Tim: Thank you! Yeah it's slowly sinking in, although I was still pinching myself on Sunday night to see if it had really happened!

ST: You showed unbelievable mental strength to stay with and eventually drop Jason Shortis once he caught you. Did you have any doubts when he caught you?

Tim: Yes, I was getting updates that Shortis was catching me fast, and I thought 'Im in trouble here.' I was going through a bit of a bad patch around the 28-30k mark when he caught me, so it was tough to stay together mentally when he did come up to me, especially when he dropped me! But I got a Powerbar gel and a coke into me and I came good, and I thought I've got to give this a crack'. Catching back up to him and running on his shoulder gave me some more confidence, plus hearing Tony going mental on Ironman live behind me really spurred both of us on.

ST: Who gave you the nickname slim?

Tim: My old training mates in Albury, where I was raised and started triathlon called me slim because I'm such a runt. Now I get 'berzerkel' among other names in Port Macquarie where currently call home

ST: You are one of the youngest male Ironman winners, and we could only come up with Thomas Hellriegel who was about 2 months younger than you when he won Ironman Lanzarote in 1995. That is not bad company.

Tim: Oh for sure, I am just so surprised to have won an ironman at this age, I thought it would have taken me many years and races to get to that point! It wasn't until the end of the race that I even entertained the though of winning, I had just been hoping for a top 5! If my career went as well as Hellriegel's, I'd be pretty damn happy, haha!

ST: On your site you list your triathlon goals as "To be successful and to make a living from racing and to win an Ironman race." I guess now you'll have to amend your goals.

Tim: My major goal is still to keep enjoying the sport and to be able to make a living out of it, but now that I've won a race I guess I've realized I can dream big.

ST: Your first triathlon was a mini tri in 2001. Who or what inspired you to do so and what athletic background do you have?

Tim: A mate and I took up triathlon to keep fit over the summer during the Aussie rules football off-season. However I was far better at triathlon than I was at footy – I didn’t like sitting on the bench all the time so I eventually quit footy and took up triathlon more seriously. I stuffed around for a few years but went pro in 2006.

ST: Weren't you a bit too much of a runt to play Aussie rules football or did you turn skinny after you started triathlon?

Tim: Nah, I have always been a skinny runt!

ST: Please describe a typical hard training week for us.

Tim: I had my biggest week 3 weeks out from Busso. I swam 18 ks, rode 480km and ran 105km with various efforts.

ST: What do you do to overcome a disappointing race?

Tim: I try not to get too bummed about my races, obviously some are more disappointing than others but that's the name of the game. You have more 'bad' races than 'good' sometimes. You have to remind yourself that a bad race doesn't make you a bad athlete and to refocus on what's coming up.

ST: How are things going for you in terms of sponsorship?

Tim: This year has been really great as I'm pretty much looked after with product and a bit of financial support by my clothing sponsor Scody, with whom I've developed a strong relationship. I'm also starting to build relationships with Cannondale, Oakley, Newton, Powerbar, Token and Bont, which is really great. Hopefully after my recent win it will open up a few doors for me as well. This year my Manager Mike McElligot has really helped me with my professionalism in dealing with sponsors.

ST: Do you have any gripes about the sport of triathlon?

Tim: Training for three disciplines can be a bit tough but I have no massive gripes about the sport!!

ST: How do you typically spend the off-season?

Tim: PARTYING! 'Rolling with the boys', recovering, a bit of surfing, going to music festivals and catching up with mates and family that I don't get enough time for during the season.

ST: Do you follow any other sports?

Tim: Yeah I follow the cycling, especially since I have a few mates who race professionally. Don’t mind watching most sports, except maybe lawn bowls?! haha

ST: Can you share with us some of your food likes and dislikes?

Tim: I love food! I pretty much eat anything, but love a good pasta and red wine.

ST: What about music? What do you listen to?

Tim: At the moment I've been having a bit of a Fleetwood Mac attack!! But it is all about the 'house' music.

ST: What was the last book you read?

Tim: 'Lead Belly' – an expose on the Australian underworld based out of Melbourne.

ST: You are still very young, but still, where do you see yourself in 5 years?

Tim: Hopefully kicking butt?!! Haha. But seriously, I hope to be make a living from, and doing well in the sport!

ST: Is there anything else we should know about you?

Tim: I love 'The Mighty Boosh' – a BBC comedy program! Thanks heaps for the interview Herbert!

ST: You are very welcome.

Tim Berkel's website is timberkel.com