He’s a superstar athlete who scored a silver medal in the men’s triathlon at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing. But Simon Whitfield is best remembered for his gold medal win at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney — where he came from behind after a crash in the bike race to steal the top spot.
When it comes to competition, the Olympic and world champion has plenty of drive. It’s the same on the road, except he prefers a slower pace and opts for function over speed. That’s why Whitfield drives a 2006 Honda Fit compact hatchback.
“It’s a dynamic car; it’s the perfect triathlon fit.
“For a triathlon, efficiency is everything because you have to conserve energy through the race to get to run. I suppose with my car it’s the same — efficiency is everything. It’s so functional,” says Whitfield, who is married and has a 17-month-old daughter named Pippa.
‘The best feature is the seats; they fold down completely flat and they fold up and they do all these different configurations.’ — Simon Whitfield (Diana Nethercott For The Globe and Mail)
“We have a little girl and we throw our bikes in the back.
“It was totally incomparable to other cars. When you try to do comparison shopping — they’re almost making it unfair. The Fit has got more room, it’s more fuel-efficient, it’s a really nice-looking car, the seats all fold down really cleverly. Somebody in North America needs to steal this design. And the price is great, too.
“We had been debating cars. I saw it in the parking lot one day when I was swimming. And I came home and there was no question about it, I found my car. And when my wife Jennie saw it, she was like ‘This is easy — it’s a no-brainer.'”
“It says I’ve become more practical and functional — in the expense, the low maintenance, the fuel efficiency,” says the dual Canadian-Australian citizen who lives in Victoria.
Size is everything for the 33-year-old. “It’s a way bigger car than it looks.
“It’s like a mini-minivan and it’s fun to drive. Jennie and I fight over who gets to drive it all the time. The best feature is the seats; they fold down completely flat and they fold up and they do all these different configurations.”
But there’s one thing he’d change about them. “I’d have leather seats. You can wipe them off really easily. I’d have heated seats, too, for my long runs.”
Whitfield’s second car is also a Honda — a 2008 CR-V SUV, but the Fit is still his favourite.
“Because we live in Victoria the running is spectacular. I like being able to get to runs so we’ll drive out to Goldstream Provincial Park. My favourite thing with the car is having the trunk open, all the boys’ muddy shoes in the back, people asking for towels to sit on seats — I like that,” says Whitfield who started competing in triathlons as a tween.
Despite his quick race pace, on the road it’s a different story. “I have a daughter now — I’m lame. I’m more cautious.
“The only thing we don’t need now in the car is a manual — which is great fun when you don’t have kids. Then when you have kids you wish that the manual no longer existed.”
Whitfield’s first car was a Renault. “I bought it for $500. First gear didn’t work and reverse only kind of worked. So I was just resourceful. You had to start it in second. It ran well.”
But it landed him in hot water on one occasion when he was 22. “My very first date was in the Renault — this was 10 years ago.
“I did two U-turns, turned right on a do-not-turn right on a red, cut across a Petrocan parking lot, cut across another parking lot to get to the restaurant and a cop followed me the entire way!
“Literally from the moment I did the first U-turn and he actually got out of the car and said, ‘I just can’t believe you didn’t see our lights. We were behind you the whole time!’
“‘Officer, honestly, she said she really had to go to the washroom and I had to get her here as fast as I can!’
“He said, ‘Oh, all right.’ But he didn’t let me off. He laughed a lot and I’m sure I was the joke later at the station,” he laughs in retrospect.
Whitfield usually changes cars often. “Every November, I seem to get bored and buy a new car. We had a Volkswagen Westphalia for a while — that was my yuppie, hippy stage.
“I had a Mini Cooper — that was a gold standard of yuppiness. The Mini was fun, but the Fit is just so much more functional.
“It was just hard to beat the Fit. The best car we’ve had has been the Fit — easily, hands down.”
And if he could have the keys to any car, well, he wouldn’t take them. “You can just give me my Honda keys back.”
- Source: Globe and Mail
- Author: Petrina Gentile
- Date Posted: December 19, 2008