GREENWICH, Conn. – Five years ago, Joe Turcsanyi worked the Greenwich Cup triathlon as a side job for the Greenwich Police Department. Last month he won the race, and he’s just a few weeks away from representing his adopted homeland in World Triathlon Championships.
The ride toward triathlon success has been swift for Turcsanyi, 36, a native of Hungary. He won a race in Bridgeport last year, finished 23rd in his age group at the national championships in 2012 and has finished first and second in two county races this year. Considering his late start, Turcsanyi’s ascent has been remarkable.
“I did triathlons as a kid, but then I did nothing for 15 years,’’ said Turcsanyi, who lives in Greenwich and is a member of the police department’s marine unit. “When I started back up, I bought a $600 bike and did triathlons in Greenwich and Stamford. Then I found out there were a few in the area. Once you do a couple and place in the middle of the pack, you want to do more. I started training and it took off from there.”
Turcsanyi emigrated from Hungary “as an adventure.” He served in the Army for three years and has had “a hundred different jobs.”
His biggest obstacle is developing a regimented training plan. As a member of the police force, his shift can include nights and weekends. “That’s what makes it super difficult,’’ he said. “I have to train at 4 or 5 in the morning, whenever I can fit it in. I can’t get into a routine like most guys. I usually sit down on Sunday night and try to figure it out. Some days I have to forego a workout. As a triathlete, that’s really annoying.”
Scheduling competitions can also be challenging. Turcsanyi takes vacation days when he can and also covers shifts of other officers who request time off. “We all help each other out,’’ he said. “Fortunately we’ve been able to make it work. Sometimes I end up racing in the morning and come to work in the afternoon with jelly legs.”
He won his hometown race last month in dominating fashion, finishing more than two minutes of his closest competitor. Turcsanyi covered the sprint distance (750-meter swim, 16-mile bike ride and 3.1-mile swim) event in 1:09:19.
Turcsanyi plans to compete in one more triathlon in Bridgeport later this month before switching his focus to the World Championships in London. He will compete at the Olympic distance, which consists of a 1,500-meter swim, 24.9-mile bike ride and 10K (6.2-mile) run. The race will be run on the same course as last year’s Summer Olympics.
“I’d like to place in the Top 20,’’ said Turcsanyi, who is supported by the Town of Greenwich police union, the Silver Shield Association. “I’ve never competed on the world level. I was 23rd in the country last year and hopefully I will build on that performance and do better at worlds. This is what I’ve been peaking for. Even if I don’t make the Top 20, I’m proud and happy to be part of Team USA.”