Team ITU kicks off 2011 season in Mooloolaba

Team ITU kicks off 2011 season in Mooloolaba

By Paula Kim on 25/03/11 at 9:06 am

The names Aleksandr Latin, Leonardo Chacon, Ron Darmon, Elizabeth Bravo and Mateja Simic might not mean much to triathlon fans yet, but keep a close eye on them as Team ITU makes its 2011 debut in Mooloolaba this weekend.

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.

In Mooloolaba, Team ITU members have travelled from all corners of the globe; Latin is from Estonia, Chacon from Costa Rica, Darmon from Israel, Bravo from Ecuador and Simic from Slovenia.

Chacon is the most experienced of the bunch, having competed in ITU World Cups since 2001 and had success in Pan American races, and last year competed in five rounds of the Dextro Energy Triathlon ITU World Championship Series. The others range from young-guns to steadily-improving triathletes and have various levels of experience with one common factor – they aren’t just there to make-up the numbers.

Because if history is anything to go by, then watch out for Chacon, Latin, Darmon, Bravo and Simic, as the programme has already helped catapult athletes from talented regional triathlete to an international contender. Lisa Norden (SWE) and Barbara Riveros Diaz (CHI), both came through the programme and both had stellar 2010s that put them firmly on the map. Norden became the first ITU Sprint Triathon World Champion in history and made the podium in world series races, while Riveros Diaz knocked off World Championship medallists Emma Moffatt and Andrea Hewitt in the Sydney round of the Dextro Energy Triathlon ITU World Championship Series.

Both men’s and women’s fields for Mooloolaba have World Champions and Olympic medallists scattered through them, combined with the fact it’s a demanding course, which is set to be a great test early in the season for Team ITU.

“This kicks off the start of the season for a lot of these athletes,” said team coach Craig Redman.  “I can remember when the programme first started you go all the way back to people like Barbara Riveros Diaz and Lisa Norden.  We’ve got a new crop of young stars and in two or three years under this programme, we’ll be looking at these athletes in the same light as Lisa and Barbara and what they are doing now so it’s pretty exciting, it’s the start of a new generation of athletes.”

Mooloolaba is the first of three ITU World Cup events in 2011 where Team ITU will compete, the others are Edmonton and Auckland.

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