1989 - Simon Lessing - far left, with local legend Kevin Richards, centre.
Born in Cape Town, his family moved to Durban when he was 9. Growing up, surfing and rugby were two of the major sports in Durban, but Lessing resisted the pressure to make the change to these activities. He trained an average of 3 hours a day in his areas of interest: sailing, swimming, track, cross-country and duathlon. He developed an interest in hiking and hiked in the Drakensberg.
McCarney encouraged Lessing to try a family oriented race he organized at Kloof High School. In 1988, Lessing was the South African triathlon champion, winning his Springbok colours in 1989 when he was selected to compete against Americans Emilio de Soto and Rob Bistodeau in South Africa. However, he broke his leg in another triathlon, and never did compete in Springbok colours.
Simon completed High School in November 1988 and was due to his National Service, but as a long time supporter of the End Conscription Campaign, made an easy decision to leave South Africa and try to fulfill his athletic dreams in Europe. Simon explains, “As an 18 year old it was a huge eye opener as I had never left isolated South Africa before. It was also an opportunity because at the time, South Africa was banned from competing in international sport and moving to England gave me the chance to pursue an international sporting career under the British Flag." Simon's mother was born in England and that entitled him to dual citizenship from an early age.
He moved to Europe, where he was part of the South African group in France, coached by Andrew Dean.
He who won five International Triathlon Union (ITU) world titles (1992, 1995(2), 1996 and 1998), and he set an Olympic-distance world record in 1996.
Springbok Triathlon Team - 1989
Simon Lessing, Tim Stewart, Mandy Dean, Nic vd Bergh (sponsor), Keith Anderson, Deon Steyn, Bill Green (manager)
l-r: Simon Lessing, Andres Lombardozzi, Michael Myers, Barry van Jaarsveld, Harald Zumpt, Rob Bistodeau, Kevin Rchards chasing the ellusive Deon Steyn
Simon Lessing with Many Dean