billi bierling female mountaineer and journalist from Germany

Bombs and records

I am back in Pakistan and the country seems to be falling to pieces. Last week, a suicide bomber blew up the United Nations World Food Programme offices killing five people, and on Thursday, 15 October, there were several bomb attacks across the country. Life in Islamabad still seems reasonable quiet, however, it could be that the violence will spread to the capital city.

On a more uplifting note, my friend Chrissie Wellington, has just broken the course record of the Ironman Triathlon in Hawaii. Finishing in an astonishing 8hrs 54m 2sec, she broke the 17-year old record set by Zimbabwe’s former eight-time champion Paula Newby-Fraser.

From left: Tina, Chrissie, Helen and I after a tough bike ride in Argentina

From left: Tina, Chrissie, Helen and I after a tough bike ride in Argentina

I always knew that Chrissie was amazing but I am still stunned by what she has achieved and I guess that the male triathletes are currently biting their fingernails, worrying that this remarkable female athlete will soon be quicker than her male counterparts. Chrissie crossed the finishing line only 34 minutes after Craig Alexander, the overall winner of the event in Kona.

I have not been in touch with her since she won the race but I guess she must be absolutely swamped with media requests, emails and fan mails, and knowing Chrissie she is probably already back on the bike or in the pool to train for her next event – or as a matter of fact, just to do it for fun.

I met Chrissie when I first moved to Kathmandu in 2004. She was part of our early morning biking team and during this time I also met two other fantastic and adventurous women: Tina from Argentina and Helen from Australia. Together we tried to shake up the Nepalese biking world and we met up in the early morning hours to go biking around the Kathmandu valley. Of course none of us – not even the strong Nepali bikers – could ever keep up with Chrissie. But when it came to downhill biking, our Argentinean Speedy Gonzales was always at the front, closely followed by our Aussie biker. Chrissie and I always came last as we were too scared of going down the steep paths that were washed out by the monsoon.

Chrissie always thought I looked like a Champignon with my helmet!

Chrissie always thought I looked like a Champignon with my helmet!

From Lhasa to Kathmandu

In 2005, we decided to bike from Lhasa to Kathmandu (for an audio report on the trip, click here) – a 1,000km stretch of dirt road between the Tibetan and the Nepalese capital. It was one of the most amazing, but also one of the hardest things I had ever done in my life. I guess it was during this trip that we all noticed that there was something different about Chrissie. Even though the rest of our team was pretty strong, there was no way any of us could ever keep up with Chrissie. She would just bike up the steep passes, which went as far up as 5,500m of altitude, without stopping, and most of the time she ended up having to wait for us for hours on end – but she always did, no matter whether it was under the scorching sun or in a snow storm.

She is the most remarkable athlete and I am proud to know this incredible woman – and the best thing is that despite her fame and achievements she has remained the same: optimistic, funny, friendly and above all modest. She came to stay with me after she had broken the course record of the Ironman race in Roth in Germany and my whole family absolutely loved her. And even though winning these events is very important to her, she also puts a lot of importance to motivate other women to take up sports – and she is certainly doing this! Go Chrissie go!

2 Responses

  1. Markus said on October 16, 2009 at 5:43 pm

    Hi Billi,

    good to get some news from you although it would be better to kno you in Kathmandu

    Never in my life I will unterstand these triathletes :):):)

    All the Best
    Markus

    Reply
  2. Chris said on October 16, 2009 at 5:11 pm

    Sent Welli an email and
    told her that we continue our tradition of skyping encouragement to her as we listen/read/watch her finish….. She simply said be there next year.

    Reply

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