Last week 220 Triathlon Magazine published an article with the Brownlee brothers on the ITU President Marisol Casado’s wish to change the Olympic event to a Sprint distance (750m swim/10k bike/5k run) as well as the introduction of a relay event (http://bit.ly/2exR0Cc) . We spoke to John Lunt, organiser of London 2012 Olympic triathlon and now the organiser of the Brighton and Hove triathlon to ask his thoughts on the proposed changes.
Q: If the changes did occur, what impact do you think it would have on the sport as a whole?
I can see the reasoning behind it from a TV perspective, however I think it will be a backward step for the sport. We have had 5 very successful Olympic events. The world has accepted our sport. Triathlon is all about endurance and coping with the pressures of a long distance event, of around 2 hours. To make it a sprint event will require a different animal than over the Olympic distance. The same applies in Rugby 7s versus Rugby 15 or the 100m and the marathon distance in athletics. They are completely separate beasts.
Q: How do you think the Brownlees would cope in 2020 if the changes were introduced?
I’m sure that with their fantastic ability, the Brownlees would alter their training programme to become very fast sprint athletes. Although the risk of injury increases.
I’m sure the sprint distance would suit some athletes but not others. The general rule of thumb is the younger you are, the better you are over the shorter distance and as you get older, you go longer. That seems to be the general pattern of age and distance. Older athletes will struggle to cope in a sprint-drafting race in the Olympics.
Q: Would you like to see the distance changed and a relay introduced? Why/why not?
No I wouldn’t like it. We need consistency over the distance and to educate the non-triathlon world what Olympic distance triathlon is all about. Yes, I would love to see the relay distance introduced as it’s great to watch, it’s fun and it’s exciting, with 4 athletes racing over the Olympic distance. It adds a new interesting dimension to the sport, without taking away the toughness of the individual Olympic distance. Having said that, team relay should not be at the expense of our iconic Olympic distance race.