Nicola Spirig qualified for the 2016 Olympics winning the Euro Games and European Championships.

This weekend ‎we see the ITU circus pulling into Brazil under the exciting heading of the 2015 Rio de Janeiro ITU World Olympic Qualification event.

During the lead up I have been asked many times about why defending Olympic Champion Nicola (Spirig) will not be attending. We’ve also been criticised for denying the triathlon public the chance to see a much anticipated Gwen vs Nicola heavyweight showdown on a tough bike course.

‘You complain about the athletes not getting the exposure they deserve, and then aren’t prepared support opportunities that give it…’

So for the triathlon public I thought it would be good opportunity to explain our position and also give some insight into why this will be the first Olympic qualification race not part of an official ITU or World Triathlon Series (WTS) event.

The Problem

When the Olympics were announced, the ITU started negotiations to have Rio placed on the WTS circuit so that athletes and fans would have the opportunity to be familiar with the course. All quite normal for the Olympic host city.

However, the upcoming WTS race hit a snag.

The ITU assumed the Brazilian Federations would work to find the standard fees needed to pay for hosting a World Series event. But Brazil, believing they had the bigger bargaining stick, thought the ITU would capitulate and waiver the licence fee given they are the Olympic host city.

As the years rolled on the impasse continued, neither would blink, and both parties were unable to find sponsors to foot the bill needed to avoid reaching into their own (considerable) war chests.

Disaster. You can’t host the Olympics on a course that no international teams have seen before! showdown: Triathlon’s best will be racing for no prize money with no TV broadcast.

The Solution

A Qualification Event! Perfect. You don’t pay, we don’t pay and we’ll add Olympic qualification criteria so the Federations are forced to bring their best athletes and strong teams anyway. Everyone’s a winner!

Well, apart from the athletes of course…

Set to be contested on the same course as the Olympic Games, the Level 1 Olympic Qualification Event will offer the maximum level of Olympic qualification points available, putting it on par with the World Triathlon Series Grand Final. Prize money nor ITU World Cup or World Triathlon Series points will be available at the test event.

(International Triathlon Union press release: October 28, 2014)

For those of you who didn’t know, and most don’t because there’s so little serious commentary on the sport, there is no prize money at all for this professional race. $0.

Our sport’s heavyweights Alastair Brownlee and Javier Gomez battling it out, risking injury and illness over a technical and difficult course for a donut.

An arrangement Roger Federer and Rafal Nadal would no doubt be similarly pleased with…

‘But it’s not all about money Sutto, think of the interest it will generate for the fans in the lead-up…’

Bit of a problem there too. After the pro athletes, tri fans are always the next to get shafted.

Here is a direct quote from ahead of the event:

“While there will be no live broadcasts of the races, highlights will be included on the magazine show on August 13 on TriathlonLive.TV” (that’s ‘highlights’ 11 days after the actual race)

So the situation is we have a pre-Olympics showdown between two of our sport’s biggest stars in Brownlee and Gomez for $0 and 0 coverage.

Yes, another ‘exciting’ leap forward for professional triathlon.

You’ll excuse us for not wanting to be a part of it. We see it for what it is – athletic blackmail.

What Fires Us Up

To those people who presume to teach me how to coach and Nicola to race by saying ‘Do the race anyway. You need to check the course out’ and ‘Don’t jeopardise your chances by refusing to go.’

Nicola doesn’t need to do anything. We spent 7 years going to Brazil twice a year with our triathlon project. The squad has raced in Rio multiple times and I visited the Copacabana Beach course even before Rio was selected as the host city.

We already know the details and nuances of the course right down to gearings on a particular hill that is going to give some favoured athletes nightmares for the rest of their lives.

We also understand that there are issues with the cleanliness of the water.

This will no doubt be cleaned up by 2016 to avoid embarrassment, but I doubt very much it will be completely resolved in 2015. Thus we are happy to watch this one unfold from the comfort of our couch, knowing exactly what will be needed to get on the podium in 2016.

Press Release ITU


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