When not sporting his Swiss strip, Newcastle West’s Jürgen Foley likes to don his home colours. According to the Limerick polymath, it’s his way of hailing the Irish roots that paved the way for his international success.
The triathlete, photographer, snowboarder, surfer, and occasional skateboarder represented Switzerland at the European Triathlon Championships in Munich last week, powering through his heat before going on to bag a silver with a fast-paced time of 1:04:53.
Speaking to the Limerick Post, Foley, whose mother hails from Switzerland, talked about how his hometown helped inspire his passion for sport.
“Despite having a German name, I always felt a strong sense of community growing up. I grew up loving sport, and started out playing soccer with my local team, Newcastle West,” the endurance athlete said.
The 38-year-old has a long-standing history dipping his toes into endurance and extreme sports, notably blazing a trail in his youth for one particular passion of his that led to something of a legacy in his hometown.
“I loved skateboarding growing up. A group of ten or twenty of us used to do it. I was involved in the building of a skate park locally in Newcastle West.”
Foley credits his laid-back attitude, something that helps him keep his wits about him in the heat of the chase, to his skateboarding past, noting that “skateboarding definitely influences my running and coaching style, it taught me how to be relaxed at the right moments.”
Never content to stay in his lane, both inside and outside of competition, Foley is also a keen photographer. A previous photograph of his – a snap of Limerick boxer Andy Lee winning his Irish title – once appeared on the front page of the Limerick Post.
A mammoth effort in Munich on August 15 saw Foley claim the silver medal for Switzerland (with his hometown never far from his heart), but his competitive steak, he admits, left him hungry for more.
“I thought I could win. I made a little mistake in the transition but made up six places in the last 500m. I wouldn’t go if I didn’t think I was in the mix. I did think I could win”.
Still, Foley says that he takes no prisoners once the starting whistle blows, aiming to always work to his strengths.
“I’m best at cycling and running, particularly running, I try to hunt people down on the run.”
The decorated athlete trains year-round, poetically comparing his endeavors as an athlete to farming: “I’m always training. Like a farmer who looks after his fields, the best time to harvest is when it’s sunny.”
The year-round training, culminating in his sterling silver success in Munich this past week, is clearly paying off, with his latest ranking seeing the triathlete rise 14 positions from his 16th-place finish in the ITU World Triathlon Grand Final in Lausanne in 2019
After his victory, the modest Foley avoided lingering too long in the post-race celebrations, opting instead to get back to his rigorous training regime.
“I didn’t celebrate by partying. I just enjoyed the moment. I like to reflect and be grateful for the support I get off family, friends, and coaches. Other than that, I just continue to prepare for future races.”
Jürgen speaks strongly about the benefits even fledgling athletes can get from local park runs and other community-based events.
“I always tell people they should go run in their local park. It’s a great way to support the local community and learn how to race. It’s also a great way for people involved in other sports to keep fit.”
The Limerick man extended his gratitude to his most loyal supporters, thanking those here at home who have always been flying the flag:
“I just want to give a shoutout to all my friends, family, and everyone else who contributed to my performance.”
Foley now has his eyes on going one better at the World Triathlon Championship Final in Abu Dhabi this coming November.