SU­PER LEAGUE TRIATHLON

Triathlon Magazine Canada - - WARM-UP - KEVIN MACK­IN­NON ED­I­TOR

EVEN THOUGH IT was over 35 years ago, it’s not un­usual still to meet triath­letes who were in­spired by Julie Moss as she crawled to the fin­ish line at the 1982 Iron­man World Cham­pi­onship in Hawaii. As peo­ple watched the dra­matic footage, which aired on ABC’S Wide World of Sports, they were lit­er­ally call­ing up their friends and telling them to turn on the tele­vi­sion to watch Moss as she strug­gled to the line.

For years the cov­er­age of the Iron­man World Cham­pi­onship, which has aired on NBC for over 20 years now, served as an in­tro for many peo­ple to the sport of triathlon. Since 2000 many have also been in­spired by the Olympic games cov­er­age, too – es­pe­cially here in Canada through the first four Olympiads that fea­tured our very own Si­mon Whit­field, who man­aged to win both a gold and sil­ver medal at the games.

View­er­ship of the Iron­man World Cham­pi­onship has de­clined over the years – in this age of mul­ti­ple chan­nels and In­ter­net ac­cess peo­ple can very much cus­tom­ize their view­ing – so, while many peo­ple are aware of “that race in Hawaii,” they are con­sid­er­ably less likely to have watched it of late. The Olympics come ev­ery four years and, while the ITU does fan­tas­tic cov­er­age of World Triathlon Se­ries events, I would guess that the ma­jor­ity of the peo­ple pay­ing to watch the races on­line are triathlon fans. There’s been lots of talk, es­pe­cially here in North Amer­ica, that the sport’s pop­u­lar­ity is plateau­ing, es­pe­cially on the pro level.

Two-time Iron­man world cham­pion Chris Mccor­mack, one of the most colour­ful pros the sport has ever seen, re­cently launched an event that he hopes will in­crease the sport’s aware­ness and ex­pand on its pop­u­lar­ity. Thanks to the back­ing of Leonid Bo­guslavsky, an IT and In­ter­net mogul from Rus­sia, Su­per League Triathlon was born. Fea­tur­ing 24 of the world’s premier short-course ath­letes

(in­clud­ing Olympic gold medal­list Alis­tair Brown­lee), the Su­per League Triathlon de­buted in March on Hamil­ton Is­land, a high­end va­ca­tion spot in Aus­tralia. The three-day event fea­tured a va­ri­ety of dif­fer­ent races – all in­cluded swim­ming, cy­cling and run­ning, but the or­ders were of­ten moved around. Day one fea­tured three dif­fer­ent races, all 10 min­utes apart, that started with a dif­fer­ent dis­ci­pline each time. Day two be­gan with a time trial on the bike in the morn­ing (fea­tur­ing a climb that got as steep as 24 per cent), fol­lowed later in the day by a swim-run-swim-bike-run race. Day three fea­tured three short-dis­tance tris – the first two elim­i­nated com­peti­tors un­til there were just 10 duk­ing it out in the fi­nal.

“We want triathlon to be ex­cit­ing, in­no­va­tive and en­ter­tain­ing – this is crit­i­cal for any sport’s sur­vival in this era,” Mccor­mack says. “I be­lieve Su­per League Triathlon will lead the way for pro­fes­sional triathlon rac­ing in this ca­pac­ity.”

The Su­per League Triathlon was cer­tainly en­ter­tain­ing. Won by South African Richard Mur­ray, it pro­vided three days of ex­cit­ing rac­ing that all fit into a 90-minute to two-hour time frame. The ques­tion is, was it ex­cit­ing for those who don’t do the sport? Is it go­ing to at­tract the in­ter­est of the av­er­age sports fan and get them to add it to their list of sports shows they watch?

My guess is not. But I hope I am wrong. The Su­per League Triathlon was fun to watch. Mccor­mack and his part­ners prom­ise that they’ll be adding a women’s di­vi­sion to the next event (which they re­ally need to – we’ve al­ways prided our­selves on gender equal­ity in triathlon), but we don’t know where or when that will be.

I hope we do get to see more events like the Su­per League Triathlon. The ITU has cre­ated some ex­cit­ing race for­mats, too – in June we’ll see our own ver­sion of a heats-to-fi­nal race at the Na­tional Cham­pi­onship in Ot­tawa, along with the al­ways-ex­cit­ing team re­lay, an event that will hope­fully be added to the Olympics in 2020. Even if it doesn’t gar­ner much in­ter­est from the av­er­age sports fan who will pre­fer to watch a ball or puck mov­ing around a field or rink, this in­no­va­tive tri pro­gram­ming pro­vides a lot more triathlon ac­tion for us triathlon fans to watch.

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