End of year news roundup

After the duathlon, long distance, and Ironman and Ironman 70.3 World championships wrap up, the northern hemisphere triathlon world goes into what passes for an off season. Sure it’s a worldwide sport that could rival surfing for the unofficial owner of the motto: The Endless Summer. But business is conducted, some tri-related events foreshadow the future champions, and budding worldwide series make headway or call for a timeout. Here are some reflections on the events and the people who are making news as the decade in multisport comes to a close.

ITU President Marisol Casado nominated to become IOC member

Spain’s Marisol Casado, the International Triathlon Union President who recently followed in the giant footsteps of retiring ITU founding executive president Les McDonald, has one-upped her predecessor on one front. While McDonald was the pioneer responsible for the triathlon gaining admittance to the Olympics, Casado was recently nominated to become one of six new members of the International Olympic Committee at the February 2010 session in Vancouver. The elections are considered a formality.

McDonald, who navigated the Byzantine politics of the IOC with mastery and skill on behalf of his sport, was never a member of the IOC itself. Casado’s selection may be a sign of triathlon’s rise in prestige and influence in international sport, but she has earned the honor through a long career deeply involved in the Olympic movement. Marisol was the Spanish representative to the founding of the ITU in 1989 and served as Secretary-General of the Spanish Triathlon Federation from 1989-94 and from 2000-2008, She also served on the Spanish Olympic Committee from 1992 and from 2000-2008 and served as President of the Spanish Olympic Committee’s Women and Sport Commission.

Marisol joins Prince Faisal of Jordan, cycling’s Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) President Pat McQuaid of Ireland, and sports officials from China, Ethiopia and New Zealand on the 114-member IOC.

USAT executive director Skip Gilbert named to USOC advisory committee

The trouble-plagued United States Olympic Committee has convened its sixth independent advisory committee since 1988 to make another costly assessment of the USOC’s governance structure and operations. This time around, USA Triathlon executive director Skip Gilbert will join 12 other committee members under the direction of former NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue.

The committee is charged with finding ways to stop the revolving door in USOC leadership, improving effectiveness to avoid disasters like Chicago’s failed 2016 Summer Olympics bid and finding leaders who will rehabilitate the USOC’s recent reputation as a dysfunctional entity which is the laughingstock of the IOC.

Gilbert was cited in a December 11 article in the Los Angeles Times for his work as head of a widely admired USOC National Governing Body -- and for his reputation as the most vocal and harshest critic of current USOC chairman Larry Probst.

USA Triathlon names 2010 Hall of Famers: Jim Curl and Carl Thomas, Valerie Silk, Barb Lindquist, Paula Newby-Fraser

This is the second year of the USAT Hall of Fame, following the inaugural induction of the first five members last year. The class of 2009 included 1984-89 Tri-Fed CEO Jon Gray Noll, early Tri-Fed Executive Director Verne Scott, inspirational age group champion Judy Flannery, and pre-2000 elite athlete Karen Smyers and post-1999 pro Sheila Taormina.

The second class of USAT’s Hall of Fame will include both Jim Curl and Carl Thomas, who founded the ground-breaking United States Triathlon Series, which set the now-standard Olympic distance at 1.5 k swim, 40k bike and 10k run. Curl was also involved in creating the Reebok Women’s Triathlon series, and major events such as the Chicago and St. Anthony’s triathlons. Thomas also served as executive producer of over 25 televised triathlon events for national networks and syndication, and also served as first treasurer of the ITU. Also named was Valerie Silk, owner, president and CEO of the Hawaiian Triathlon Corporation, which ran Ironman Hawaii from 1981 through 1988. in 1989, Silk sold the Ironman to Dr. James Gills, who renamed it the World Triathlon Corporation.

The pre-2000 triathlete selected is eight-time Ironman World Champion Paula Newby-Fraser, who also has 24 career Ironman titles to her credit – both of which outpace Dave Scott and Mark Allen and all other triathletes. PNF’s world record time for the Ironman distance stood for 15 years, and her Ironman Hawaii course record stood for 17 until Chrissie Wellington topped it at Kona this year. While Newby-Fraser was born in South Africa and competed for many years under the flag of Zimbabwe, she has been a resident of the US since 1985 and has been a US citizen for well over a decade.

The post-1999 triathlete chosen was Barb Lindquist, who was ranked first in the world on the ITU circuit from February 2003 through 2004, won 33 of 134 career races, was on the podium in 86 of those races, won the first two Life Time Fitness Triathlon titles, and also took one Wildflower title.

While the USAT Hall of Fame is still playing catch-up to the Triathlete and the World Triathlon Corporation triathlon halls of fame, it is coming fast to catch up with its own 26-year history. While it is admirable that it is insisting on gender equality for women, USA Triathlon might think of electing its first male athletes in 2011. So far its first four pro inductees are women, and its only age grouper so far is a woman.

Junior national triathlete champ Lukas Verzbicas wins Foot Locker XC

Don’t look back, Alistair Brownlee. Somebody might be gaining on you.

High school sophomore Lukas Verzbicas of Orland Park, Illinois, this year’s ITU Duathlon junior World Champion and runner-up USAT junior national champion, won the prestigious Footlocker Cross Country Championship in San Diego December 12. Verzbicas finished in 15:07 for the 5k course – 15 seconds ahead of the field – and was the first sophomore boy to win what is generally recognized as the high school national cross country championship. Verzbicas, now 16 years old, set a national high school record for the indoor 5000 meters last year as a freshman with a time of 14:18.22.

At the very least, Verzbicas seems to be following in the footsteps of Jarrod Shoemaker, who was a top NCAA runner at Dartmouth College before winning the ITU Under 23 World title in 2005. Shoemaker also won the ITU short course Duathlon World Championship this year in North Carolina. But in terms of medals and honors, Verzbicas has a six-year head start on his elder role model.

NYT says new triathletes overtrain, get injured, and forego benefits of cross training

In a November 24 article, the New York Times chronicled a rising incidence of injuries among newbie triathletes, who give up the healthy benefits of cross-training to high mileage ambitions. The Times wrote: “Paradoxically, many people move from single sport to triathlons because of the oft-heard promise that adding variety to their exercise regimen will reduce injuries. The theory is that the three sports work different muscles, ideally minimizing the strain on any single muscle set… But in practice, people who take up triathlons tend to train harder, adding rigors to their workouts without necessarily subtracting anything. Thus the idea that people can reduce their chance of injury by competing in triathlons may be a fallacy.”

Challenge Wanaka field fills at 1,000

This first international offshoot of the successful independent Challenge Roth Ironman-distance event in Germany has come a long way from the inaugural Challenge Wanaka race in 2007 when it drew just 60 entries – then 100 in 2008, and 160 last year. This year, buoyed by enthusiastic word of mouth about the course set in New Zealand’s ruggedly beautiful South Island and a decision to combine the Iron-distance race with the Lake Wanaka Half, Challenge Wanaka sold out 1,000 entries in mid-December for the January 10, 2010 event. The fact that Challenge Wanaka could rise to sold-out status bodes well for the growing list of Challenge Ironman- and half-Ironman-distance events which now includes events in France, Spain, and Denmark.

Las Vegas will host 2011 ITU long distance world championship

After chopping down the distance from Ironman-length, to the three-quarters-of-an-Ironman Nice distance, to its most recent incarnation as twice the Olympic distance, the ITU long course World Championship has scheduled a return to the United States after a 15-year absence. The ITU announced this month that its 2011 long course world championship will be held in Henderson, Nevada, a suburb of gaming capital Las Vegas.

In the ITU long distance world championship's last appearance in the U.S., Greg Welch and Karen Smyers won the titles at the race in Muncie, Indiana.

IMG’s San Diego Triathlon postponed to 2011

The good news: In another sign of the growth of major triathlon events despite a faltering economy, IMG Worldwide decided to add to its portfolio of televised international triathlons by launching a new event in San Diego set for 2010. The bad news: The faltering economy led IMG to postpone the launch to 2011. The setting in Mission Bay in the heart of San Diego marks a return of a major triathlon event to the birthplace of triathlon. The 2001 San Diego Triathlon, set for March, will join established IMG races in London, the Escape From Alcatraz in San Francisco, Alpe d’Huez, Ironman Australia, and the brand new Abu Dhabi Triathlon.