With the rise of new and shorter formats in modern Olympic triathlon, athletes need to adapt very quickly to different loadcases. Changes in movement patterns are caused by race courses, strategies or transitions to the next discipline. But is training volume really the mayor key for success in the run for the Olympic medals in Tokyo 2020?
Commercialization of triathlon in the past 18 years developed race formats and distances to fit broadcasting windows. This development has made competing and qualifying for the Olympic games more complex.
In 2017 the IOC also included a super-sprint distance held as Mixed Relay into the Olympic program of Tokyo 2020. A Team Relay consisting of 2 men and 2 women each competing over the distances of 300m swimming – 8km biking – 2km running. Since the introduction of this second triathlon format the total number of Olympic qualification spots has not changed. Slot allocation has been revised. For the Tokyo 2020 games the top 20 spots are allocated to the 5 highest ranked nations in the Olympic Mixed Relay Qualification.
At the University of Graz we are investigating possible ways in modern Olympic triathlon training and racing to achieve that “bit more”.
These recent developments in – what I would call – “modern Olympic Triathlon”, raised the complexity of competing and qualifying for the Olympic games. This challenges athlete’s and federation’s strategies and abilities because:
- Qualifying as an athlete for the Olympic Games in Tokyo 2020 may mean that this athlete has never competed over the full OD in a qualifying race. In 2019 73\% of the WC events and 67\% of the World Triathlon Series (WTS) events are held over sprint and super-sprint distances. Both race series contribute as qualifiers for the Tokyo games. Total race times are around 50 minutes in a sprint triathlon and less then 20 minutes in a super-sprint triathlon
- The introduction of Mixed Relay events to Olympic Games has changed allocations of qualification spots. Hence triathlon might evolve beyond individual events into team formats both in qualifying and medal events. 2018 results have shown that some countries have adapted very quickly to new demands of Olympic qualification formats. A few have managed to develop not only individual characters but also strong teams.
And this is where my excitement begins…
As researchers are still unclear how muscle and tendon units can contribute to the performance and the demands of modern Olympic triathlon we are already on our way to find out. For that reason I have set-up an interdisciplinary team of sport scientists, equine veterinarians and engineers in which we are currently developing a research set-up to enhance studies of the versatility and interplay of muscles and tendons. Follow our updates on this site!