Australian Triathletes: Why Are They
Written in 1995 and not much has changed!
April 25, 1995
Greg Welch wins the Ironman. Brad Beven wins a third consecutive
World Cup Series. Unknown Emma Carney wins the World Championships,
succeeding previous World Champion Michellie Jones. There
is a pattern forming here which may be very hard to break.
Australia, with a population of just over 12 million people,
is dominating the sport of triathlon.
To investigate this phenomenon in more depth, I went under
cover Down Under for three months to compete
in the revolutionary Triathlon Grand Prix Series. The series
consisted of five races at different sites throughout Australia.
The formats of the races were spectator friendly, fast paced,
short in time length and SPONSOR friendly. For instance,
three of the races were called the Enduro format that involved
a 500-meter swim, 14-kilometer bike and 5 kilometer run.
The kicker was we did these distances twice through in one
race non-stop. Another race was the Eliminator. An all-indoor
event which included a temporary swimming pool, built in
the middle of a Velodrome. 25 participants were in the first
race. The top 15 made it to the next race. The top ten survivors
got a ten-minute break and raced. The remaining five got
a ten-minute break and raced for top honors.
Brad Beven won four of the five races in the series and
captured the title for the second year in a row. Greg Welch
was again runner up. Yours truly finished tied for ninth.
Yes, I was not as focused in my training to compete at my
top level of fitness. After all, Superman Brad Beven is
the only triathlete I know who wins consistently year round.
All of us other humans need to take a breather sometime
from the rigors of racing. On the other hand, I was still
fit and in good shape. After all, I am one of the top US
triathletes and I had to show these bushmen a thing or two
about US strength. I tied for ninth in the series! What,
this cant be? Wait, Im from the US! Who do these
people think they are kicking my butt like this? With further
analysis, I explored the foundations of triathlon in Australia
and I have come to a few conclusions why and how they are
dominating the world now and why they will be able to keep
doing it in the future.
1. Popularity of Triathlon - Australia has one-twentieth
the population of the US, yet they have just as many triathletes.
I spent two of my three months in Melbourne. EVERY weekend
a person can drive within an hour and a half and find two
to three triathlons. These triathlons consistently have
150 - 500 participants. There are even races every second
Wednesday where people get off work and compete from 6:00
to 7:30 in the evenings. An all womens triathlon had
456 participants. The key to many of these races is the
short distances. The Challenger Series are triathlons with
distances of only a 300-meter swim, eight-kilometer bike
and two kilometer run. This attracts many first time entrants
as well as individuals who are unable to train much due
to time constraints or they just dont want to train
a lot. The triathlons are social events that include exercise.
Attracting such a wide range of individuals into the sport
creates national interest where people become interested
in following the sport and its professionals. This interest
allows for a series such as the Triathlon Grand Prix to
receive national network television coverage for two hours
on Sunday afternoons. Prime time Sunday afternoons can only
be a dream for triathlons in the United States. Imagine
triathlon taking the place of the NFL on a regular basis
during Sunday afternoons.
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