Images: World Triathlon

By Kent Gray/ in Hamburg
Kiwi No.1 Hayden Wilde has lent his celebrity to World Triathlon’s renewed push to have super sprint added to future Olympic Games.

International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach is set to attend this week’s World Triathlon Sprint & Relay Championships in Hamburg as the sport’s global governing body continues to lobby for the extension of its Games program.

Hamburg is the first time the sprint championships will be decided over the shorter super sprint distance via a two-day, five-race eliminator format. It is part of World Triathlon’s punt to remain relevant in a sporting landscape increasingly driven by television executives looking for snack-sized content streams for our attention deficit age.  

World Triathlon president Marisol Casado confirmed Bach’s visit at a media conference on Wednesday but urged caution, saying the LA 2028 Games may be too soon for any extension. The Brisbane 2032 Olympics could be a more realistic target, the Spaniard said, noting she knows how “these things are working” given she has been an IOC member since 2010.

Triathlon has been an Olympic discipline since the Sydney 2000 Games and has been contested since then over the standard (or Olympic) distance of 1500m swim, 40km bike and 10km run. Mixed relay was added as another medal sport in Tokyo 2020, delayed till 2021 by the pandemic.

The IOC dismissed overtures to have the super sprint added in Paris as World Triathlon were unable to demonstrate a consistent program of events over the rapid-fire distance (300m swim, 7.5km bike, 1750m run), thus the importance of this week’s event in Hamburg.

Wilde is a fan of the format, with caveats, and also World Triathlon’s attempts to add more triathlon medals.

“It’s great to have that third medal potential at the Olympics… I think we definitely deserve it,” Wilde told ahead of his first of potentially six races in Hamburg at 8:35am Friday (6:35pm Friday  NZT).

“I think it is the way to go, yeah It’s exciting, it would be really nice to get a third event at the OIympics whether I’m racing or not, it would be great for the fans of the sport itself.”

Wilde’s only current reservation is the time between races which forces athletes to continually warm up and down. He’s a proponent of shorter, Super League-esque breaks to keep the action high tempo on course and on television.

“The format is great but it is just having that fine line of how much time we should have between races. Personally, I feel an hour, 10 [the 70 min gap being trialed in Hamburg] is a little too long, more so just for the spectators. Maybe we could take it down to 10 minutes, just bang it our real quick.

“Having those 20 minutes races and just a short rest, it shows aggression in the race but also it kind of keeps everyone on to the race because an hour, 10 sometimes people can forget who is racing the next round.

“As with any new format at any new race there’s things that we can work on and hopefully we can make it a really great thing.”

Casado is already convinced super sprint can work at the Olympics but again called for “calm” as the sport states its case to the IOC.

“As you know, we have only two medals, other sports have 10, 15 etc. so we are all the time trying to improve this. But we have to be calm in this regard. I am an IOC member, I know how the things are working,” she said.

“We need to be sure this is a good format for the Olympic Games. For us now, it is necessary for us to try and always try at the highest level otherwise it is not going to work properly. That is why we are promoting this world championships because we can have everything as high level as possible.”

Casado hoped super sprint would be added to the Olympic program but conceded it might be a case of switching out the Olympic distance. “Of course, we are ready for Los Angeles, maybe after Los Angeles, maybe it is Brisbane, maybe we are in the situation we can put this format because it is working better than the one that we have now, or we can combine.

“The best solution is we would have different people competing but this is something, that as you know, in the Olympic Games it is completely no way to have more than 10,500 athletes.

“We have to be calm, we really want to try different things and I think it is really important to be ready for other possibilities but it is far away I think.”

Wilde has no doubt this week’s racing will deliver an impressive show for Bach.

“Hamburg was my first sprint distance race win so to come back here and have a different format is certainly very exciting. With the crowds, it’s incredible, they always come out and sometimes you can’t hear yourself breath which is fantastic.

“Saturday is meant to be 31 degrees so I feel there is going to be a lot of people with a beer in hand cheering us along.”

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