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Triathlon America Conference: Marisol Casado
Posted by: Editor
Posted on: Tuesday 21st February 2012

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After introducing the Triathlon America Conference yesterday, US-based Brit Mark Cathcart reports on the keynote speech of ITU President Marisol Casado... and a mistaken identity moment in the corridor.

You can find all of Mark's updates from the conference on these links:

Day one at the Triathlon America conference started with one of those, only at a conference moments. I did 90-mins at the gym, on the bike and a short treadmill run, left and was walking back to my room. Coming the other way was a guy in smart casual clothes. He smiled, held out his hand and said "Hi big guy". We stopped and talked for a few minutes, I showed him my new built-up Zoot running shoe, done for me by the Wongstar former professional triathlete, Jocelyn Wong. As we separated I said "looking forward to it Bob". I walked up the hill and bumped into Bob Babbitt from Competitor Group, which meant I'd confused Bob and Mike Riley, the voice of Ironman, d'oh. (hopefully Mike didn't notice).

Keynote Day One

ITU President Marisol Casado and on the left USAT representative to the ITU Executive Board, Melissa MersonThe first conference session was ITU President Marisol Casado. Marisol used her session to point out that relations between the ITU and the US Triathlon business were at, to use her analogy, base camp, and there was much to do, especially since ITU are pursuing the same goals, to increase participation. She made mention to the past tensions between prior US triathlon organization and the ITU, especially past President Les McDonald, but mostly her session was on the future.

Her main points though reminded me though how different triathlon is here to the rest of the world. When discussing the Olympics, Marisol covered the scope of the organisational effort, numbers and structure of the ITU. Where the differences come to the fore, is the approach to and focus on growing the sport. ITU is all about the Olympics and growing the sport using the Olympics as the pinnacle. Also from the overall organization, which for the ITU is much more socialised and goal-based, is that triathlon in the US is much more profit based.

Marisol demonstrated this by talking about a more inclusive, balanced sport with shorter distances, more focussed on participation, while at the same time talking about protecting the image of the sport through strong social agenda, focussing on keeping the sport clean [from drug cheats] and healthy.

In addition to giving out some impressive growth numbers, supported by the ITU but obviously delivered by National Federations, individual race organisers and athletes for example, in National Federations, up to 148 now, 3000 accredited technical officials; etc. Marisol finished by discussing three key events. One, her desire to get mixed relay triathlon into the 2016 Olympics, which she hoped would further raise the visibility of women in triathlon; two, triathlon in the Paralympics, which given the UK's current strength, would be a good thing, also the US is increasingly getting organised and focussed in Paralympic triathletes; three, the upcoming San Diego WTS Event in May.

The ITU, and USAT are both investing in this race as a way to try show triathlon as a much more commercial, exciting sport than typically Ironman and long distance triathlon is, and hoping it will be a catalyst for greater sponsorship and growth.

I'll come back to this in follow-up reports and share some observational comparisons between Europe, the US, ITU and Ironman, but enough for now.

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