As the countdown to Kona begins, the build up is reaching fever pitch. The Triathlon community is immersed in debate, insider tidbits on social media, and as a whole can't wait for Saturday week. In stark contrast, the ITU in their wisdom, still cling to the theory that making the last race of the convoluted World Triathlon Series a double points race, is what makes the Triathlon communities knees tremble in expectation.
I’m afraid that the ITU executive is now so detached from the reality on the ground, that it’s hard to understand how to even communicate with them. If the ITU didn’t have the Olympics to prop it up, they would sink without a trace. For 9 years now, there has not been a World Championship race.
Here is a simple 1, 2, 3 to explain:
1 - If the best athletes decide not to follow the series, then we don’t have the best of the best racing in the final.
2 - We have in the final race, athletes vying for points, not for victory, to make sure their ranking is not risked.
3 - Outside of the most ardent supporters, the parents and associates of the competitors, nobody knows what is going on at all.
We have the World Series (WTS), World Cups (if you are in Europe), European cup races, and let’s not forget the Continental Cup races.
How do we understand the different stepping stones to the World Series when it is not defined, marketed, or explained to even its own constituency?
If that isn’t a clear enough conflict let’s go a step further. How do you gather new followers, when if you want to watch a race on free to air TV, YouTube, social media, the ITU charges you for the privilege? Nothing more than gouging it’s own supporters for extra revenue. Simultaneously, making very sure that anyone that has ever tuned in to sports on TV on a lazy Sunday won't discover this brand of Triathlon.
One would think the ITU executive would really know they have an image problem when I know multiple high performance athletes, coaches and past champions who do not subscribe to the pay to view ITU channel. They have zero interest.
So another year has passed. Another year the ITU has no clue who is their best athlete on any given day.
The upside for them of course is they don’t have to market their best athletes, as their greatest opportunity over the last 10 years has passed. Brothers Brownlee were the greatest billboard to carry the sport to a new level. While they are household names in Yorkshire, and known throughout England (great tea advert boys), if you are not a triathlete, it's a zero. Gwen was allowed to move on without a word being said to her; when the grind of the circuit wore her down. I know for a fact after Nicola Spirig's Olympic Gold medal win in 2012, that the only word she was sent was 'you have one day left before you miss the deadline to the next race'. I kid you not!
As all get excited to see the clash of the Ironman titans at Kona, one genuinely hopes that not all on the ITU executive board have gone to sleep, as it is tiring following the circuit they put together - even if you are not racing! I say to them, watch the Triathlon worlds reaction when you give them a World Championship race.
The experiment of who has the most points at the end of a series has failed. Hanging on to it is only making this part of the sport more irrelevant by the season. It’s now time to bring back a World Championship race for Olympic distance Triathlon.