Why we got the bum steer
THREE key factors led to one of the weakest fields in elite Mooloolaba Triathlon history competing on Saturday.
It was an Aussie double in both ITU World Cup races, with Luke Willian winning the men’s race and Emma Jackson securing the women’s title.
But overshadowing the results were athletes who were not at Mooloolaba.
The combination of a post-Rio downturn, the shift from sprint distance to Olympic distance and the impending new Super League Triathlon all saw the big guns shun the Sunshine Coast.
Many of the world’s best men are already in Australia, with the likes of English Olympic gold medal champion Alistair Brownlee, Spanish five-time ITU winner Javier Gomez Noya and compatriot Mario Mola Diaz, South African powerhouse Richard Murray, along with Aussie stars Ryan Bailie, Jake Birtwhistle, Ryan Fisher and Aaron Royle all now on Hamilton Island for the three-day Super League challnge.
“With the (April 8) world tri series on the Gold Coast being a sprint and New Plymouth (March 22) being a sprint, the thinking was that Mooloolaba should be an Olympic distance,” Ironman Oceania managing director David Beeche said.
“It’s always a challenge in a post-Olympic year.
“You get this slump where athletes are taking some time out, undertaking a different style of racing or thinking about other things before they start their build-up to Commonwealth Games.
“We are still committed to ITU and the ITU product.
“It’s a great showpiece for the sport and working out how collectively as a sport we deal with this Olympic year hangover, for want of a better term, is something that has been an issue since triathlon was introduced at Sydney Olympics in 2000.”
Offering athletes additional travel and accommodation incentives remains an option.
There is an established protocol as to what elites are provided, depending on the event and level of athlete, and it may be that greater incentives are required to lure athletes back to the Coast.
Prizemoney for first at Mooloolaba was $7500, whereas Super League is offering $100,000. Ironman and the ITU will be watching with interest this weekend.
“This kind of thing isn’t new in the sport. It’s been done before with new formats and big prizemoney and all the promises that get made at the early stage of a new product,” David said.
“Time will tell. These products have come and gone before.
“When that prizemoney is thrown its hard to blame the athletes for chasing the money.”
One of the smallest elite fields competed at the 2017 Mooloolaba Triathlon.