By Brian Mahony on 28/04/11 at 7:16 pm
Australia have long been established as the powerhouse of triathlon. The country dominates nearly every medal table conceivable. It has the most amount of World Champions with 33 titles across the Elite, Under23 and Junior categories. To get an idea of the scale of this achievement, the next closest country is Great Britain with 18 World Champions. Australia leads the elite medal table with 47 medals since 1989. Thirteen medals in the Under23 category, and 31 medals in the Junior category have gone to the southern hemisphere nation since the disciplines’ introductions in 2002 and 1990 respectively. However, Australia has been beaten in the previous two years in the ITU Team Triathlon World Championships, which featured the 4 x mixed relay format. Both times Switzerland took the crown. They are out to seek revenge this year. Michael Flynn - Triathlon Australia National Performance Director - gives us his thoughts on the team event and what he expects to see in Lausanne this year.
Did you know the format of team triathlon is?
1st Woman: swim, bike, run
2nd Man: swim, bike, run
3rd Woman: swim, bike, run
4th Man: swim, bike, run
Distances:275m swim, 6km bike, 1.5 mk run
ITU: How important are the Team Triathlon World Championships for Australia this year?
Michael Flynn: The ITU team concept is great and now that they have been formalised Australia will take it very seriously and look to win. Australia has always been a firm supporter of the Team racing concept as it is something Australian sport has been built on. Sport in Australia is built around the foundation of clubs and schools, then regions and states and then onto the National Team concept, that is why Australia is so successful and will continue to be.
ITU: The Swiss team has won the Team Championships for the last two years, why do you think the Swiss team perform so well?
MF: The Swiss have a group of athletes that are very consistent and of good quality and very proud to represent their country that is why they perform so well. They are the benchmark that the rest of the nations need to compete against.
ITU: What level of team do you expect at the team championships this year?
MF: Based on what the ITU have proposed I believe that all of the best athletes in Australia will want to come out to play and want to win. I think to get into the Australian team will be very competitive and hopefully we will be allowed a couple of teams.
Australian dominance in the sport
Total World Champions:33
Elite World Championship Medals:47
U23 World Championship Medals:13
Junior World Championship Medals:31
ITU: Explain the major mental and physical differences for athletes competing in a team event, as opposed to an individual event?
MF: Physically because it is a very short race you are at full bore the whole way so different athletes may get a chance to succeed. The so-called sprinters of our sport will finally get their chance. The mental aspect changes completely with your performance being not only an individual concern but a team concern so you have others that are relying on you. Everything is in sprint motion so any mistake is costly so the pressures are compounded. The pressure is on even why you stand there and wait for your turn and even when you have done your job you are still under pressure because you are still part of the race.
ITU: What are your opinions on the Lausanne course for the race?
MF: What a great backdrop for a ITU World Championship race to be held in. The home of the IOC and many International Sporting organisations on the edge of the beautiful Lake Geneva and with a short sharp rise to ensure that the bike leg is as important as both the swim and run. I think it is a course to test every athlete and that is what each course should be.
ITU: When selecting a team, what factors do you consider?
MF: We will be looking for athletes that want to be part of the team and have a great desire to play their part. We will also look at athletes who have shown their ability to perform at the real short sharp sprint distances. Those that are cool under pressure and look forward to the challenge but most of all those that love to win.
ITU: What would you think about team triathlon as an Olympic sport?
MF: From and athlete point of view I cannot imagine any athlete not being excited about racing in an event at the Olympic Games that has a team component. After the individual component, it is the ultimate challenge. This team event will be extremely exciting, very fast and the pressure will be on all athletes from start to finish and all Australians will be behind it. To imagine standing on the top podium with three of your Australian teammates will bond you for life in an arena that only a few can succeed. From a spectator point of view, it is what people look for: fast, exciting and competitive racing.
ITU: Who do you see as the key contenders for the world title?
MF: You never underestimate any of the opposition but at the same time you can only do what you can do so make sure you are respectful of all opposition and totally trust and respect your teammates.
ITU: One word to describe team racing?
MF: “Bloody Exciting, sorry that is two words but I am from Australia.”
ITU: Outside of triathlon, what are your favourite sports teams?
MF: Australian Rules Football, it is a game that should be seen by all.
ITU: If you could make your dream team, from all nations, of athletes currently racing what would it be?
MF: Sorry this may sound corny but it would be a team of Australians and that goes for the next question as well.
But I might have Gomez, Brownlee and Findlay as reserves.
ITU: If you could make an ideal team of all athletes who ever raced, what would it be?
MF: Snowsill, Moffatt and Harrop and Robertson, Stewart and Atkinson
The Australia team which competed in the 2009 ITU Triathlon Team Championships.
Find more details about this event - 2011 Lausanne ITU Triathlon Mixed Relay World Championships