"It was very, very hard to convince her," Oscar Galindez remembers. "I attempted once, I tried twice, I tried a third time and finally she agreed to date me." Oscar laughs out loud and glances at his wife Lisa. "Maybe that is the reason I always try and never give up!"
We are standing in a cozy kitchen in the heart of Santos. The 500.000 inhabit city, just down the road from Brazil’s crazy busy metropolitan Sao Paulo, is base for South-Americas most popular and successful triathlete. In typical argentine-style Oscar is sharing the traditional mate tea and a big smile.
The question that has been bothering me since I knew we are going to meet was fairly obvious. Why is this man still driven to race triathlons at the highest level? After 26 years in one of the hardest sports this world has to offer it looked to me like a miracle.
26 years hold a lot of stories and memories and some are quite obvious as you walk across the apartment. Oscar’s passion for the sport - and the success that came with it, is visible everywhere. Trophies, medals, photographs and all kinds of mementos are difficult to overlook. One wall is dedicated to magazine covers and images which display Oscar's battles and wins. They show the progress from the Olympic Distance up to the Ironman. In addition to capturing Oscar’s career they also are a timeline of the sport of triathlon. Nearly three decades saw a lot of transformation in person and in gear. Oscar knows it all - first hand.
"This was a huge race!" He is pointing at a cover of an US-Magazine. "It was a Super Sprint Distance race in California. Extremely difficult format!" A glimpse at the participants is like visiting the triathlon hall of fame. In all these years Oscar raced nearly everybody past and present. There are not many big names he hasn’t met or raced. But after all these years he is still starving for more knowledge and he tracks the scene meticulously.
Sebastian Kienle’s aggressive effort on the bike and subsequent win at the 70.3 World Championships in Las Vegas makes Oscar cheerful. "That is the way to win a race. I enjoy watching tough bike riders, as my strength always was the bike. Watching Sebastian achieve the win like this blew me away."
This shows what a great sportsman Oscar is. Honoring a young athlete and challenger with all the respect he deserves displays class.
The race in Las Vegas was supposed to be the highlight of Oscar’s 2012 season. To finish up his preparation for the event he journeyed from his residence in Brazil back to his home nation of Argentina. Close to Cordoba is what Oscar calls home. Once the kids are on holidays the whole family heads down south. But the last vacation in the countryside changed the whole season.
It began with Oscar's 16-year old son Thomas. Thomas was heading out for his daily bike training and when Oscar got out an hour later he noticed a crash up the road. As he came closer to the accident he could see that a bike rider was involved and a couple of seconds later he recognized his own son. "Everybody can picture that this was one of the worst moments of my life." An ambulance was already at the scene when he arrived. "My son was lying beside the road with medical attention. The car looked pretty bad so I thought the worst thinkable." The doctors calmed down the shocked father. Thomas did not suffer major injuries and after a couple of days in the hospital he was already feeling better. Now he only has smiles when he talks about the crash. "It is ok now, the wound though heals slowly," Thomas states. Training cannot wait. He already is back to normal. The DNA of his father is clearly present.
Bad luck hits twice they say and just a couple of days after the crash of his son, Oscar's end of the season came in form of a truck. As that truck passed him while Oscar was on the bike, an overhanging piece of wood knocked him off the street. "I couldn’t do anything. It was a shock. When I was lying on the side of the road I realized that this is something severe." The vehicle did not stop and rushed on. He tried to look up to recognize the number plate of the truck but couldn’t tell anything. Lucky enough a car watched the accident and the truck driver was eventually caught by the police. "I was training pretty well. All the workouts leading to Las Vegas went fine. I gained back some speed and then this happens.” Upset and helpless - season over.
"Swimming and easy biking is all I can do at the moment. I am forced to take it easy." Sitting on the sofa and watching last weekend's live stream is not the preferred activity for someone of Oscar's caliber. "Four to five times a week I see my physiotherapist. It helps a lot and I have to do it to get back fast." Witnessing how focused Oscar works out with his therapist you know why he still is going strong, even at age 41.
A book he grabs looks time worn. He opens it with a smile. "Look. This is my training log from 1989." Since that year he monitors his training and racing. A journey through all the books is a journey to a major part of Oscar’s life. "It is crazy. When I see stuff like this I can only shake my head in disbelieve." He points out heavyweight training weeks and racing weekend after weekend. On a continent where distances are enormous, his 'rest days' are the travel days. "I raced the middle distance race in Pucon in Chile. After that race I toured across the continent to race Olympic Distance in Entre Rios in Argentina the next weekend. Wild!" He smiles conscious that this was the 'old-school' way of doing things. Various photos fall out if the files and old training procedures from his coach. Oscar stares at them and shares memories of good and bad races.
It is unusual to meet a legend of this reasonably young sport that still is active at the premier level. This season began well for Oscar as he raced to 8th place in the loaded 70.3 competition in Panama. "After the swim people told me I’m down 1.5 minutes. When I jumped on my bike my legs felt good and I could push." He managed to catch up with the leaders and got the fastest bike split in a race that featured the likes of Lance Armstrong, Rasmus Henning and Chris Lieto. Knowing that long distance racing slowed him down, the focus for the forthcoming season is to gain back speed with short distance racing.
Listening to an athlete approaching his 27th season you can still see the excitement in his eyes. And it all comes back to his wife Lisa as Oscar will try and try and never give up. Until he gets what he wants!
The sites of Oscar Galindez are below: