Less than two weeks after the conclusion of the London 2012 Olympic Games, a host of Olympians returned to competition to represent their countries in the ITU Triathlon Mixed Relay World Championships this past weekend. The innovative race format, which includes two women and two men each completing a ‘super-sprint’ triathlon before tagging off to their next team mate, featured 23 teams from all five continents and was a rousing success in Stockholm.
“This past weekend in Stockholm we witnessed one of the most exciting Mixed Relay competitions to date,” said ITU President and IOC Member Marisol Casado. “We are delighted how athletes, National Federations and spectators have supported this event and ITU’s bid to have it in the Olympic Games.”
Despite chilly and wet conditions, huge crowds turned up to watch 23 mixed teams battle for the title of top triathlon nation. While the Swedes finished outside of the podium to Great Britain, France and Russia, spectators were treated to a thrilling, unpredictable race that saw constant lead changes.
Team GB took gold, but their title was hardly secure, having trailed in 14th place at one point. With two genders, three disciplines, and four athletes working together, lead changes are inevitable in this unpredictable race. France, Spain, Japan, Switzerland and the Netherlands were just some of the countries to trend out in front.
“It’s a very exciting event to take part in,” said Olympic bronze medallist Jonathan Brownlee. “It would be great if we could get it into the Olympics as well. It is very exciting, it changes so much throughout the whole race and it’s good to watch.”
The short distances and explosive sprint racing appeal not only to spectators, but also to broadcasts. Centred around the transition and finish area, viewers have consistent views of the competition and can line the course and watch for free, just as at London 2012. The unpredictability of the race particularly appeals to a young, entertainment-demanding audience.
“It’s a super exciting event to watch,” said Olympic silver medallist Lisa Norden. “It’s something for TV and the crowd and places like this, to bring it downtown. For us as athletes, to make more stars of the future, you need more medals. It’s a great opportunity.”
The race is an optimal choice for inclusion in international events as it promotes gender equality, with men and women competing on the same playing field at the same time. The dynamic format won’t affect triathlon’s existing athlete quota and requires no additional costs to a Games budget as the same venue from the individual competition can be used.
“It really means a lot as a country, we are very much into having team cohesion, so doing something like this together is very important to us,” said Jess Harrison of the French silver medal team. “I just love this kind of racing. I think everybody loves this kind of racing. Whether you are the first team or the last team it’s that little extra kick that you don’t get in individual racing.”
Triathlon mixed relay made its major games debut at the inaugural Singapore 2010 Youth Olympic Games, and will also be contested at the Nanjing 2014 Youth Olympic Games, the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games and the 2014 Incheon Asian Games.
Fingers crossed that the mixed relay, team triathlon format makes its way into the wider Olympic movement soon!