Why Trilogies? It’s a long story in 3 parts…
There are those who stand for good, and who are aware of their influence in their community. With the current atmosphere and cynicism surrounding high performance sport we are not afraid to say that Laurent Vidal was different. Sincerity, generosity and commitment was his character, and the only way he lived. He never took shortcuts, never took advantage of his influence, never misrepresented himself.
His abrupt end to competition was an injustice, yet Laurent accepted it and sought to help others with his years of knowledge and experience, it gave him immense satisfaction. His new role coaching athletes was not by chance, he could not accept their stories were complete, not at this stage.
In the world of the ITU they say it is impossible for one to coach their spouse and even more unthinkable, train with their opponents. Of course, the success of Andrea Hewitt and his outstanding Olympic performance alongside his great friend David Hauss showed otherwise, showed it could be done. The success perfectly illustrating his ability to never fall into jealousy.
He was a man who thrived on the success of others. We spent a number of days together debating the definition of a good coach. His answer was fair, he spoke of balancing physiological and psychological stress with the need to adapt the training based on the athlete. He would say to me it is impossible for him to have more than four athletes, and even if the demand was there Laurent wanted to stay true to himself. He was never in search of personal gain, only in search of what was good. He was always the competitor who respected the performances of others.
In the mutual desire for change Laurent and I naturally joined forces. When I doubted myself, doubted the relevance of what I was doing at this time, he was always there to push me to continue the fight. Some saw him as just another athlete, but for me he was a model, an antidote to cynicism. We rarely saw each other, however I had the impression of having always known him.
Most describe him as an accomplished athlete and two-time Olympian. I will always remember his balance and curiosity. He did not allow himself to be completely consumed by sport. He lived life to the fullest. He engaged in music and graphic design, he always wanted to learn. Never with an arrogance of believing he knew it all, but he was always wanting to help others.
Andrea Hewitt was also in the same image. Herself a force of nature, the perfect illustration of resilience. A person we admire so much that the thought of him not being here is unbearable.
In a society that frequently destroys its hero’s, Laurent was without issue and always approachable and accessible to all. He would take the time to discuss, to share his views with whoever wanted them and without a second thought. Sharing was his only option.
He had let me into his world. I still remember my first encounter with him and Andrea in Edmonton (Grand Final 2014). He still had a desire to return to competition, his ambition was always there, but with his wife finishing in third, he was more than happy with that. Often he said that for an athlete his biggest opponent was himself. With Laurent there was no doubt about that. His universal appeal illustrated perfectly with Kiwis, Australians, Canadians, Americans and many others across the globe. Many describe him as a good friend, many others say he was like a brother.
His world was open to all. It’s probably not soon we will find an individual as well loved in the ITU.
Often Laurent would write for us. He would do it spontaneously and without expectation. He simply wanted to give back to the sport he loved. There is no doubt he could have sold his thoughts to any other publication. However he just wanted to share his experiences for the good of others. These are that make the difference, his generosity allowed me to evolve and I am just a part of a long and privileged list.
Many young athletes are still under his influence. He is a role model they will never forget. Medal or not, the individual and his influence simply has no price. You would think he would fall victim to the praise and become complacent, yet he always wanted to do more.
In recent weeks he spoke of his intention to change the world of Triathlon. To be a part of this provided immense happiness. Nothing was seen as impossible in our quest to stop the current stagnation in Triathlon.
Laurent wanted to break down barriers and make Triathlon inclusive for everyone. His departure will only inspire us to realize his dreams.
Trilogies will follow his path.