Sport-spe­cific Fo­cus

Triathlon Magazine Canada - - SWIM BIKE RUN TRANSITION -

Cham­bers feels it is good for ath­letes not to spe­cial­ize in triathlon too early. It helps to main­tain their drive long-term and cre­ates rounded in­di­vid­u­als. But, while this is pos­i­tive for the ath­lete, it cre­ates dif­fi­cul­ties for coaches try­ing to build pro­grams.

Triathlon is a young sport and, as such, the path­ways for com­pet­i­tive juniors to make it to elite se­nior level rac­ing are still de­vel­op­ing. But sig­nif­i­cant progress is be­ing made. In Bri­tish Columbia, for ex­am­ple, there is now a pro­vin­cial race se­ries for ju­nior triath­letes.

“It was only three, maybe two years ago when the only op­tions for 16- or 17-year-olds were to do a lo­cal sprint or be rac­ing the ju­nior na­tional se­ries,” says Med­calf.

But there is still progress to be made. There are just three races in the B.C. se­ries: in May, June and a fi­nal event in Septem­ber. Ac­cord­ing to Cham­bers, this cre­ates a bot­tle­neck as tal­ented younger ath­letes look to move on from par­tic­i­pa­tion-based events and want more se­ri­ous rac­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties.

Guest and Deutsch both ad­mit the balance of par­tic­i­pa­tion against the num­ber of races is tricky to get right. If there were more races, would there be more rac­ers? Or do the ath­letes need to come first to cre­ate the de­mand? Canada has the ad­di­tional is­sue of widely dis­persed pop­u­la­tion cen­tres. Travel to races is dif­fi­cult and it can be hard to con­vince par­ents to make the trip, es­pe­cially for short events.

For elite juniors look­ing for the best com­pe­ti­tion, the prob­lems are even greater. The Na­tional Ju­nior Se­ries con­sists of three races in 2017. The events are based in On­tario or Que­bec, mak­ing travel harder from out­side those prov­inces.

“In some cases we would stay for a cou­ple of weeks for two races and then go back. So it’s def­i­nitely not cheap,” says Deutsch.

Fund­ing is mainly di­rected to se­nior ath­letes with Olympic po­ten­tial so, un­til an ath­lete reaches this point, they must be pre­dom­i­nantly self-funded. It is not an easy sit­u­a­tion to rec­tify. Triathlon Canada sim­ply does not cur­rently have the re­sources to sup­port ju­nior triathlon as they would like. In a lot of ways it all comes back to par­tic­i­pa­tion. Greater num­bers of juniors – and adults – in­crease the pro­file of the sport and cre­ate rev­enue. In ad­di­tion to in­tro­duc­tory pro­grams, Guest feels com­mu­ni­ties should make bet­ter use of cur­rent stars to in­spire kids and wishes elite triath­letes were house­hold names.

There is a lot to be ex­cited about for triathlon in Canada. At se­nior level, there are a bunch of tal­ented ath­letes kick­ing on from Rio for the next Olympic cy­cle. And over longer dis­tances, Cana­dian rac­ers are among the best in the world.

But for this suc­cess to con­tinue the sport must adapt. Gov­ern­ing bod­ies have to do more to at­tract the stars of the fu­ture and pro­vide them with the op­por­tu­ni­ties they need to thrive in the sport.

Luke Yates is a free­lance joun­ral­ist and triath­lete from Van­cou­ver.

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