The Story of How One Man Transformed the Tri Scene on Hilton Head Island

Courtesy of Go Tri Sports
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Alfred Olivetti is a self-described "South Carolina Boy." After getting a PhD in Environmental Policy from West Virginia University he returned to his home state and moved to Hilton Head Island. Soon after his move he made a radical decision. That decision ultimately shaped the triathlete community on Hilton Head and consequently changed the lives of innumerable people along the way.

Alfred completed his first triathlon in 1997, after some friends in Morgantown encouraged him to compete. It ignited a passion that has been fueling him ever since. When speaking with Alfred, his enthusiasm is contagious; he speaks of tri sports in a profound way, making it clear that this is not a hobby, it is a lifestyle.

“Just like life, a triathlon is a process. It is the pursuit of the self, figuring out who you are.”

Olivetti competing with his daughter in tow
Olivetti competing with his daughter in tow Courtesy of Go Tri Sports

For Alfred training and competing sustains him with purpose and meaning; the practice inspires “focus and depth, both physically and mentally.”

Tri sports showed Alfred who he truly was. Throughout his development Alfred couldn’t shake the feeling that he had to spread the good news. “If I could experience this, then there’s something to it. And I wanted everyone to experience it. It’s a huge spoonful of self-esteem.”

In April of 2000, after moving to Hilton Head, Alfred opened a small shop called Go Tri Sports in the Park Plaza shopping mall. He left behind a career in Environmental Policy and devoted himself to the triathlon. Go Tri Sports is a shop geared toward the triathlete. It has the bikes, the shoes, and all the training gear and apparel you could ever need to be competitive. If you've already got your gear, the shop also offers regular group rides and runs to aid in your training, completely free of charge.

The store was Alfred’s way of staying in the industry without the grueling challenge of professional competition. It also provided a platform for him to spread his love of the sport to others, and he’s done exactly that. Alfred has seen huge success on the small island, and three years ago, Go Tri Sports moved to a new location on New Orleans Road; a location that hosts both Go Tri Sports and its event planning arm Go Tri Events.

With Alfred as an anchor, a thriving and vibrant tri community has sprung to life in Hilton Head.

Go Tri Sports has all of your triathlon needs
Go Tri Sports has all of your triathlon needs Courtesy of Go Tri Sports

During one conversation with Alfred, he explained his world view: “We’re all on the same boat. If one person falls, then everyone needs to pick them up.” This mantra is evident in everything that Alfred does.

For 15 years, Go Tri Sports has been donating thousands of dollars and countless man hours to different organizations on Hilton Head. Alfred, and the community he has built, help in the island’s schools and places like the Island Rec Center to mentor young children, encourage athletic participation through kid’s triathlons (the next of which is Aug. 1st), and even sponsor especially gifted young athletes. In the words of the people who know him best, Alfred is a “leader in the area when it comes to living a healthy lifestyle” and an “asset to the triathlete community, and Hilton head in general.”

Young Triathlete train for near the Island Rec Center
Young Triathlete train for near the Island Rec Center Courtesy of Go Tri Sports

As Andrew Chafer puts it, “Al was the guy that established triathlon in the area. He brought everyone in and helped with training. I would do anything for Al.”

Chafer met Alfred in February of 2001. He described himself at the time as a “beer drinking golfer,” “5’7” and 184 lbs.” He came to Alfred with the desire to run a marathon. Where some people may have written Andrew off, Alfred took him under his wing. He helped him find the right pair of shoes and walked him through a training schedule. Only six weeks later Andrew Chafer completed that first marathon. Despite not being able to walk the next four days, Alfred was able to talk Andrew into trying a triathlon soon after. Since then, he has completed 16 Ironmans and countless triathlons, and has developed a close friendship with Alfred in the process. Now a lean 143 lbs., Andrew’s involvement with tri sports has brought about an entirely new lifestyle and he feels inspired to help people just as Alfred helped him. “My body has changed, my outlook has changed, I eat clean, I don’t really drink anymore. My whole life has changed. I try to lead by example, people who need help in triathlon, I’ll give them help.”

Bernadette Kriesel tells a similar story in her experience with Go Tri Sports. She moved to Hilton Head in 2001 and had only competed in one triathlon before meeting Alfred. “Al was so enthusiastic with the lifestyle that he kind of drags you in to it.” Her training helps her in more ways than one. “I’m a lot healthier, a lot easier to get along with, it keeps my stress levels down, I perform better at work.” As a CPA Bernadette finds the release especially helpful during tax season. Now a seasoned vet, she competed in her second triathlon in 2002. It was the first triathlon that Alfred hosted on Hilton Head. Alfred has been planning and hosting triathlons in Hilton Head ever since.

One event in particular seems to elicit fond memories from everyone that participated: The Beach Bum Triathlon. Cooked up while celebrating Alfred’s birthday years back, The Beach Bum was meant to be an accessible triathlon with an emphasis on fun. Held entirely on the beach, contestants are welcome as they are, costumes encouraged.

Chafer was involved in the inaugural event in 2004 and completed the triathlon in drag. Contestants compete for the coveted Coconut Monkey, passed out to the top ten male and female finishers, below 40 and over 40. Kriesel reports that the competition gets fiercer every year, and that just adds to the fun. (The next chance to compete for the Coconut Monkey comes August 8th, and you can sign up at Bernadette suggests bringing your oldest bike and all of your enthusiasm. If you’re looking for something a bit more competitive, be sure to check out the full list of events hosted by Alfred and Go Tri Events.

Olivetti encourages competitors during the annual Beach Bum Triathlon
Olivetti encourages competitors during the annual Beach Bum Triathlon Courtesy of Go Tri Sports

Whatever your interest in triathlons may be, make a stop by Go Tri Sports. You’re sure to be greeted with a smile and Alfred Olivetti’s patent enthusiasm. Kriesel sums it up best: “Al’s a true asset, he has time for everybody. Whether it’s your first time or you’ve done 50 triathlons.”

Don’t take our word for it; stop by and see for yourself.

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