By Merryn Sherwood on 29/03/11 at 11:09 pm
Costa Rica’s Leonardo Chacon highlighted Team ITU’s first performance of the year at the season opening World Cup in Mooloolaba.
A total of five athletes from five different countries raced in the Mooloolaba ITU Triathlon World Cup this past weekend as part of Team ITU, a cornerstone of the ITU Sport Development programme, and Chacon put in a strong men’s race to finish in 13th.
His result was an impressive showing given the depth of the field, that included world champion Javier Gomez, Brad Kahlefeldt, Courtney Atkinson and a host of other World Cup and World Series podium-place winners. But Chacon has his eyes set on greater heights after being in the lead-pack in parts, and was trying to keep his performance in perspective.
“I had mixed emotions (about the result) but it’s normal because when I was running in the front, I wanted to stay there,” said Chacon. “But I took lots of chances to break away (on the bike) so I think that I destroyed my legs like that, and that’s why I couldn’t run faster than I did.”
“I’m so happy for the results but I know I can do better. I need that kind of break away and then run bit faster. So I’m keeping a positive mind and still enjoying this.”
But Team ITU coach for Mooloolaba, Craig Redman, said that it was the type of performance that could see Chacon in line for the biggest race of all next year in London.
“It was an outstanding effort by Leonardo (Chacon),” Redman said. “He was aggressive on the bike and ran quite well to get inside the top-15 in a world class field. This was practically a World Championship field. His progress and improvement has been exciting and unless anything major happens, I’d be very surprised not to see him on the London start list.”
The coaching staff of Team ITU was impressed with not only with Chacon’s showing but that of the entire team. Both Estonia’s Aleksandr Latin and Israel’s Ron Darmon finished in a tough men’s race, Latin placed 37th, while in the women’s Slovenia’s Mateja Simic finished 27th. Ecuador’s Elizabeth Bravo did not finish.
“We were really happy,” Redman said. “It was the first race for many of them and especially coming out of the European winter was a big challenge. But it gave them an overall indication of where they are at and what areas they need to improve on.”
“The athletes were happy with their results. To be competitive in those high quality fields was great. There was a big learning curve but they’re young and it’s going to take time build up the speed. All in all, it was a very positive experience for all of them.”
Team ITU is an initiative of the ITU’s Sport Development Programme and offers support for athletes who may not be able to otherwise attend some of the big races, but who are genuine contenders. More than just providing funding for travel and accommodation at each race, the team also receives an elite level coaching team, a physiotherapist and a bike mechanic to give them the same level of race-day support as the elite athletes in the field.
It’s already been a success, with bona fide ITU stars like Lisa Nordenand Barbara Riveros Diaz graduates of the program. Both raced in Mooloolaba, and Norden said she couldn’t help but go and check-in with her team.
“It’s a nice bunch of people so I always go to see how they are, I’m really glad for these athletes that they have the ITU development crew behind them,” Norden said. “For me, I was the only one from Sweden coming out, so you are always by yourself, you have breakfast by yourself, you walk around by yourself, you race by yourself, you might maybe have one coach with you, but all the other triathletes have these big support teams. The ITU kind of gave us that, you have your friends, you have the team spirit, you aren’t racing by yourself and it’s just really fun, you are racing with the team and you have all that support crew and it’s a massive amount of help.”
Team ITU will be together for two more World Cup’s in 2011, in Edmonton and Auckland.