Reggie Douglas is Nevis’ top triathlete. He started out windsurfing and racing mountain bikes before moving into multisport. He has been racing for over a decade and has represented his country at the world championships for both cycling and triathlon. Douglas is not only a phenomenal triathlete but has been extremely influential at bringing local kids into the sport and helping them with their education. Douglas always wears a huge grin and is a true ambassador for the sport and his country.
Tell us a little about your history?
I was born in Nevis and I was a windsurfer before I got into triathlon. Winston Crooke [Nevis Triathlon organiser] was running a windsurf business and I used to hang out at the beach. I ended up giving it a go when I was 13. He took me to my first competition and I did pretty well. Like many windsurfers at the time when there wasn’t any wind we used to ride mountain bikes. I did a few races but never really trained for it.
When did triathlon come along?
Around 1996 I did my first triathlon when I was 18. My first race was part of a team relay. I did the swim section with some friends doing the other two disciplines. We decided to stick with triathlon but I knew I wanted to do it all on my own. My swimming technique back then wasn’t all that great but I’d make up ground on the bike and run. I’d been a long distance runner at school. Ironman triathlete Gerd Weber used to visit the island and he brought some bikes over so we started using them to race and train on. Weber also helped us with our swim stroke and we started progressing.
Didn’t you race the ITU event in St. Kitts?
Yes, in 2000. I ended up getting a flat on the bike but finished the race. After this I decided to take the sport more seriously. I was a Rastafarian at the time and wanted to keep my philosophy but still be a good sportsman. Triathlon was one of the things that helped change my life and I started to train more seriously. I progressed over the next couple of years. In 2003 I did my first half Ironman at St. Croix and finished 23rd in my age group which inspired me to train even harder.
When did you win your first national championship?
That was in 2004 in Nevis. I stared to race around the Caribbean and usually finished in the top five at most events. 2006 was supposed to be my breakthrough year. I wanted to go back to the half Ironman in St. Croix and try to qualify for Kona. The season started well with a few wins including the national champs but I crashed three weeks out from the St. Croix. I ended up with a blood clot in my right thigh which ended that dream.
So you came back okay from the injury?
Yes, I recovered from the injury and had another good year in 2007 taking the national championships again. I was travelling around the Caribbean that season racing to Grenada, Tobago and Barbados and was usually in the top three.
When did you get back to St. Croix?
That was in 2007. I placed eighth in my age group in St. Croix which earned me a slot for the Ironman 70.3 World Championships in Clearwater, Florida. My goal was to do my best and go under five hours, which I did finishing in 4:49. It was a hard course for me – flat is not good when you’re used to riding hills (laughs). I loved it and it was great to represent my country.
Didn’t you also race at the cycling world championships too?
That was in 2009 when I went with James Weekes, Kathryn Bertine and Monica Ceccon. Everyone wanted to do interviews with us because we were the only black people there. It was an amazing experience, just breathtaking. I had a good race but was still 11 minutes off Cancellara.
Do you still want to qualify for Kona?
I’d like to qualify in 2012 and get to Hawaii. I really want to do that race. It’s my dream.
Tell us about the work you do with the local kids?
Winston (Crooke) told us it was our duty to bring a youth into the club. My village has lots of kids and we all ride around the island on a Sunday morning. I talk to them about triathlon and how I can help them. We try to help them with bikes and clothing because they don’t have the money to buy these things. I also wanted to put sport and education into the same bracket.
So you helped them with their education too?
I help them with courses and after school programmes. We have a tutor that helps get them up to speed with things they’re struggling with. Some kids stay and some go. I had one boy from my village that stayed and I was determined for him not to finish school at 15. He ended up moving in with me, studied and moved up a few grades. He stayed in school for longer which was good to see. I was dealing mainly with kids in my village but have helped several kids from other villages.
Sport must help keep these children on the straight and narrow then? Some kids need sport to burn off their energy and give them a sense of purpose. It really helps with their attitude and their family life too. People learn to work hard and have respect for themselves. People used to tell me to get off the bike because it wouldn’t lead to anything. I proved them wrong. Now I travel all over the world representing my country and tell the kids I work with they could too.