London: Jan van Berkel’s heartwarming win in his last professional race at his home event in Thun has helped secure him the vote for July’s PTO Athlete of the Month.
The 37-year-old Swiss star won Ironman Switzerland for the fourth consecutive year at the beginning of the month to earn himself 77.69 PTO ranking points as well as a 66-place move up the PTO World Rankings to #56 and sign off a long and successful career in style.
He narrowly beat Sarah True and Joe Skipper, who had also enjoyed strong months. True’s big win in Europe at Ironman Frankfurt earned her 86.75 points – the highest score by anyone in July. Meanwhile, Skipper’s barnstorming performance to take the win at Ironman Lake Placid, scored him 82.06 points, taking him back inside the men’s top 10 at #9.
The monthly accolade is a new initiative for this season, introduced by the Professional Triathletes Organisation (PTO) to celebrate its members across the year and recognises a female or male PTO athlete each month based on: outstanding race performances, significant movement up the PTO World Rankings and/or challenges overcome.
A six-athlete shortlist for July 2023 was pulled together and then voted on by a panel of triathlon media as well as fans. The shortlist included (in alphabetical order): Alice Alberts, Fred Funk, Imogen Simmonds, Jan van Berkel, Joe Skipper and Sarah True.
The media panel includes: Global Triathlon Network (GTN), Triathlete, Triathlon Magazine & Tri-Mag.de Each give their 1, 2, 3 based on the shortlist and fans voted during Friday 29 July, 2023, across the PTO’s social channels. Three points are awarded for being voted #1, 2 pts for #2 and 1 pt for #3. The points are then added up to determine the winner. Jan van Berkel and Sarah True scored 9 points each, but van Berkel edged it courtesy of two first places to Sarah’s one. Joe Skipper finished third on 8 points.
Speaking about his win, Jan was quick to thank the fans and also the media panel who voted:
“It’s a great farewell present and I really appreciate it because I know people voting are the fans and at the end of the day it’s all about them. We wouldn’t be anywhere without the fans on the race course. And second, I also know that the people from the press, the media, they really know about their business. They know the sport and it gives an added value to the prize.”
He also wanted to underline how special his last race win in Thun was for him, his family and supporters:
“For the last race it was pretty special…because everyone that’s at one point helped me get where I am was there. So it was my first coach ever to my mechanic…the aerodynamicists were there. Then some sponsors that really helped me get where I was on a professional level. My whole family and my friends and Daniela Ryf, the winner from last month [June PTO Athlete of the Month] was there. We shared a big time of our career together in the Swiss National teams and also now in Ironman. So that makes winning just that bit more special. I know my people don’t need something back, because they know I gave everything, but it was nice for me to hand them the finish line tape at the end of the day.”
Asked if he felt the pressure of the last race being in his own backyard, Jan said:
“I mean at the end for me, it never felt like pressure because I always use that image of…I’m defending the title and in a literal way that means making sure the next one that takes it is actually worth it and that is maybe yourself. That’s why I didn’t feel the pressure. In the media they really know what was behind those four wins. I could have retired as the guy who always got seconds at Ironman Switzerland, but now I retire as a four-time champion. I took every single win as a bonus and especially the last one.”
Currently enjoying a well earned break in the Black Forest in south west Germany, Jan also talked about ‘what next’ and how he is determined to stay involved in the sport, albeit without a racing belt around his waist. He also mapped out his own thoughts on the PTO.
“I’m gonna start work on October 1st in a sports startup. I will be attached to the sport, but just without a racing belt around my waist. I have a background in sports law, specializing in sports ethics, so I really want to stay close to the sport when it comes to the matter of anti-doping. And now that we have the PTO taking matters in their own hands, I would really also love to work with the athletes to revolutionize the anti-doping fight.”
“In Swiss German we say that if you really care about something, you try to grow it and you don’t try to grow your slice of it. That’s what I really hope the PTO is going to do. Grow the sport for the professionals, but also the whole sport as it is. Including all the players, including other race organizers, including all the age-groupers, make triathlon bigger, better, more professional in every sense of the word. Make sure it’s clean. Make sure it’s holding up to the highest ethical standards in every kind of way…doping, equality, fairness and also inclusivity. And, at the end, make sure people live a healthy lifestyle.”
Well said Jan and congratulations on a great career.
For Further Information
Anthony Scammell E: [email protected]
About the Professional Triathletes Organisation
The PTO is a new body, co-owned by the professional athletes, seeking to elevate and grow the sport of Triathlon and take it to the next level. Each PTO Open is raced over 100km (2km swim, 80km bike and 18km run). The PTO European Open on 6 May kicked off the 2023 PTO Tour and is followed by the PTO US Open in Milwaukee on 4-5 August and then the PTO Asian Open in Singapore on 19-20 August. The season will be underpinned by the new PTO World Rankings, helping to create a compelling season-long narrative in the sport for the first time.