Emma Carney

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Emma Carney
Personal information
Full nameEmma Elizabeth Carney
Born (1971-07-29) 29 July 1971 (age 47)
Bourne End, England[1]

Emma Elizabeth Carney (born 29 July 1971) is an Australian former professional triathlete and two time World Triathlon Champion. She is one of the few triathletes in the world to have won two ITU world titles.[2] She was the world number one triathlete according to ITU rankings in 1995, 1996 and 1997,[3] and achieved 19 World Cup wins, faster than any other triathlete.[citation needed] With seven wins in 1996, she also holds the record for the greatest number of ITU World Series wins in a single season.[4]

She is an inductee of the Sport Australia Hall of Fame (2016), the International Triathlon Union Hall of Fame (2014), and the Triathlon Australia Hall of Fame (2012).

Early life[edit]

Carney was born in England, but moved with her family to Australia at an early age.[5]

Carney began her sporting life as a runner: when she was in grade four, she was the only girl to win a medal in the school (Wesley College) cross-country mixed race. As a teenager Carney remembers jogging after school everyday. "From that time on there has hardly been a day when I haven't trained", she said. At 13 she set a Victorian record in her 3,000 m debut, and at 18 she was winning national school titles. She wanted to go to the Olympics, but realised she was not going to hit her peak as a middle-distance athlete until her late 20s. She reached the finals in the under-20 national championships in the 1,500 m and 3,000 m. As she thought running for another 10 years would be "boring", she decided instead to do some cross-training and triathlons.[5] Carney quickly became one of the few athletes to represent Australia in two sports - athletics and triathlon.


In the spring of 1993, Carney tried her first triathlon, which she won after overcoming a seven-minute deficit from a 700 metre swim. Her accountant father, David, told her, "It's 18 months until the world championship in Wellington. If you learn to swim and train, you'll be the best triathlete in the world." She recalled, "My father went over everything I had to do point by point and it all made sense."[6]

ITU domination[edit]

In November 1994, she fulfilled her father's prediction, winning the ITU World title — her first international triathlon — by a record margin of 2 minutes 12 seconds.[5][6] From June 1995 to April 1997, Carney recorded an unbroken string of 12 straight ITU World Cup wins. After a narrow loss to Michellie Jones at the 1997 Monaco World Cup, she recorded another four straight World Cup victories, before adding another ITU World Champion title in November. Viral infections meant that she failed to win the 1995 and 1996 World Championships, but still finished second in 1996.[6]

Her fellow 1997 World Champion, Chris McCormack said, "Emma is hard!", referring to her shockingly long training at fearlessly high intensity, and her ruthless ferocity in competition.[6]


After winning the Ishigaki World Cup race in April 1998, Carney never again won a World Cup or World Championship race. In July she could only manage 15th in the World Cup race at Gamagōri, then failed to finish at the Lausanne World Championships in August, but partly recovered to finish fourth in the November Auckland World Cup race. Following a metatarsal injury in 1999 which prevented her running for eight weeks, she finished 3rd in the Montreal World Championships. In 2000, she failed to qualify for the Australian Olympic women's triathlon team, despite an appeal to the CAS.[6]

She described this period as a "shitty time", when she could not work out what was wrong. She said, "my reaction to racing badly was to train harder—which was the worst thing I could do for my heart." Despite her problems, she won some races, including the 1998 Australian National Championship, the 1999 Australian Long Course Championship and the 2000 Australian long course and sprint national championships.[6]

Retirement from professional triathlon[edit]

Carney was forced to retire from professional triathlon in 2004 after suffering a cardiac arrest in Canada.[7] She was later diagnosed with ventricular tachycardia, a life-threatening condition that causes the heart to beat too fast and out of control, usually during high-intensity anaerobic exercise.[6][8] The doctors found it difficult to diagnose her condition, partly because Carney's resting heart rate when asleep was only 21 bpm. In October 2004 surgeons implanted an implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD) in the right ventricle of her heart.[6]

She later speculated, "I always raced so hard that maybe it contributed to damaging my heart. Having said that, I probably was unable to approach it differently. That was just the way I was wired - all or nothing."[6]

Later life[edit]

In 2006, Carney's elder sister Jane died of cancer. She had thought that her heart problems were "really hard", but describes her sister's death as "a well of anguish that surpasses anything I'd ever seen or felt in life."[6]

After her ICD implant, doctors told her that she could not exercise at all, but Carney found that not exercising made her heart worse and that instead it was better to exercise a little every day to keep it under control. She now finds that she can do "quite a lot" of training, provided she avoids damaging high-intensity spurts. For example, she completed an iroman-length (180 km) bike ride, and hopes eventually to complete a full Ironman. Occasionally she exercises too hard, causing her ICD to "shock" her heart, as happened once when she was out running with her father.[6] It also happened in 2008 when she was taking part in the 299 km Melbourne-to-Warrnambool bike race, when she forgot about her condition and attempted to chase down the leading pack.[9]

Carney has had a strained relationship with her sport's governing body, Triathlon Australia (TA), partly because of their reluctance to allow her to compete, with her well-known heart condition, in their races. She has called on TA to require annual ECG and ultrasound tests of their elite athletes.[7]

Carney now spends her time coaching through her website.


Note: only top-ten finishes are shown in the table below.
Date Position Event Venue Swim
T1 Bike
T2 Run
6 September 2003 7 ITU Triathlon World Cup Hamburg 20:00 1:00:43 35:23 1:56:07
20 July 2003 9 ITU Triathlon World Cup Corner Brook 21:07 1:12:20 36:35 2:10:02
15 June 2003 6 ITU Triathlon World Cup Gamagōri 21:34 1:01:29 36:24 1:59:29
15 April 2001 9 ITU Triathlon World Cup Gamagōri 20:12 1:03:47 36:06 2:00:05
8 July 2000 7 ITU Triathlon World Cup Toronto 20:15 1:02:09 35:24 1:59:05
30 April 2000 7 ITU Triathlon World Championships Perth 20:11 0:48 1:07:44 0:39 26:31 1:55:55
7 November 1999 2 ITU Triathlon World Cup Noosa 20:47 0:59:47 35:14 1:55:49
12 September 1999 3 ITU Triathlon World Championships Montreal 20:00 0:37 0:59:04 0:32 36:08 1:56:19
11 April 1999 4 ITU Triathlon World Cup Ishigaki 18:32 1:03:13 39:02 2:00:48
1 November 1998 4 ITU Triathlon World Cup Auckland 2:01:26
2 August 1998 8 ITU Triathlon World Cup Corner Brook 20:07 1:15:02 36:16 2:11:26
12 April 1998 1 ITU Triathlon World Cup Ishigaki 19:41 1:07:01 36:42 2:03:24
16 November 1997 1 ITU Triathlon World Championships Perth 20:57 0:58 1:03:31 1:02 34:40 1:59:22
26 October 1997 1 ITU Triathlon World Cup Sydney 20:19 0:35 1:23:37 0:32 35:47 2:00:32
21 September 1997 1 ITU Triathlon World Cup Hamilton 20:55 1:06:09 36:50 2:03:54
10 August 1997 1 ITU Triathlon World Cup Tiszaújváros 22:15 1:03:44 34:22 2:00:22
6 July 1997 1 ITU Triathlon World Cup Gamagōri 21:25 1:04:30 37:48 2:03:44
29 June 1997 2 ITU Triathlon World Cup Monte Carlo 2:09:47
27 April 1997 1 ITU Triathlon World Cup Auckland 22:39 1:04:26 35:09 2:02:15
13 April 1997 1 ITU Triathlon World Cup Ishigaki 20:28 1:05:25 36:12 2:02:05
20 October 1996 1 ITU Triathlon World Cup Sydney 1:58:15
13 October 1996 1 ITU Triathlon World Cup Auckland 2:03:19
24 August 1996 2 ITU Triathlon World Championships Cleveland 21:51 0:27 0:54:04 0:36 34:39 1:51:43
30 June 1996 1 ITU Triathlon World Cup Hamilton 1:49:34
23 June 1996 1 ITU Triathlon World Cup Drummondville 22:46 1:00:59 34:08 1:57:55
10 June 1996 1 ITU Triathlon World Cup Paris 1:06:23
19 May 1996 1 ITU Triathlon World Cup Gamagōri 1:57:54
12 May 1996 1 ITU Triathlon World Cup Ishigaki 21:26 1:04:43 34:50 2:01:00
12 November 1995 7 ITU Triathlon World Championships Cancún 25:12 2:11 0:59:49 0:48 38:07 2:07:05
6 August 1995 1 ITU Triathlon World Cup Drummondville 1:53:12
25 June 1995 1 ITU Triathlon World Cup San Sebastián 2:02:37
17 June 1995 1 ITU Triathlon World Cup Derry 2:01:21
27 November 1994 1 ITU Triathlon World Championship Wellington 20:17 1:07:04 35:44 2:03:18

Source: ITU profile.

Awards and honours[edit]


  1. ^ "about Emma". emmacarney.com. Retrieved 15 July 2010.[permanent dead link]
  2. ^ "MB Stars - Emma Carney". Megaburn. Archived from the original on 14 July 2011. Retrieved 17 July 2010.
  3. ^ "archived profile - Emma Carney". www2.triathlon.org. n.d. Retrieved 16 July 2010.
  4. ^ "ITU Triathlon World Series Individual Records" (pdf). International Triathlon Union. 3 June 2009. Retrieved 16 July 2010.
  5. ^ a b c "Emma Carney". Coolrunning.com.au. 8 June 1997. Retrieved 17 July 2010.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Carlson, Timothy (9 October 2006). "You gotta have heart: The Emma Carney story". kevin-everett.com. Retrieved 16 July 2010.
  7. ^ a b Salvado, John (1 November 2009). "Carney urges more triathlon health tests". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 17 July 2010.
  8. ^ Jeffery, Nicole (30 October 2009). "Carney fears ban over heart condition". The Australian. Retrieved 19 July 2010.
  9. ^ "Heart Scare For Emma Carney". Watzzupsport.com. 1 February 2008. Retrieved 17 July 2010.
  10. ^ "Triathlon Hall Of Fame Inducts 3 Triathletes". Triathlon Magazine. Retrieved 13 October 2016.
  11. ^ "Emma Carney Inducted Into the Inaugural ITU Hall of Fame". Triathlon Australia. Retrieved 13 October 2016.
  12. ^ "King Wally becomes a Legend as Michelle Payne rides off with 'The Don'". Sport Australia Hall of Fame. Retrieved 13 October 2016.

External links[edit]