I Feel So Good About Next Year: Triathlon Is Back And Bigger Than Ever

Super League Triathlon Columnist 16x9 17551057 2947 49cf 8a10 E959b2e7223b

Column by 4x World Champion Chris McCormack

It’s so nice to be looking ahead to 2022 with a feeling of momentum around racing.

We have all felt the pain of a tough couple of years with the pandemic bringing our sport to a virtual halt, but we have been on a strong road to recovery in 2021 and suddenly the future looks so much brighter.

When I look back to the start of 2021 the year started with so much uncertainty. Even though events were happening the rumour mill was whirling over whether the Olympics would take place, half the world was locked up and half the world was wide open and loving life.

Countries were scrambling for Olympic qualification and it wasn’t until Yokohama went ahead that you realised that if Japan is getting events on then the Olympics will happen.

Kristian Blummenflt and Taylor Knibb won that race. It was huge for them both as Taylor got herself into the Olympic team and for Kristian it was the reinforcement that he hadn’t gone anywhere and was in amazing form.

Leeds meant we saw some momentum in short course racing. Lucy Charles-Barclay had her first attempt at that distance and raced amazingly. Maya Kingma put her hand up, Flora Duffy showed some vulnerability but had a huge run and that was when you started trying to pick the form guide.

Superleage Malibu 2021

Alex Yee went like a rocket ship and it was the first big Olympic distance performance from him at an elite level and post that event it was the end of Alistair Brownlee for the Olympics.

Also Vincent Luis had an injury and hadn’t blown people’s socks off with Blummenfelt and the Norwegians pushing themselves to the front with Hayden Wilde back in for Leeds and the Belgians pushing forward too.

Heading into Tokyo I really believed that Flora was the woman to beat. It was hers to lose.

On the men’s side I thought Kritsian would be there but there was a question mark over the heat of Tokyo.

At this point you started to see the missed peaks by athletes. Knowing the racing history of a lot of the guys they tend to be momentum racers.

The moment vincent luis looked vulnerable

Suddenly Vincent Luis looked vulnerable. We had just put out part one of the Super League documentary ‘Invincible’, but it started to look as though Vince, who is a momentum guy, hadn’t found the form he wanted after an untimely injury.

Slt Munich2021 Brownlee Luis

Hayden Wilde was showing he was ready and Alex Yee was a person on everybody’s lips.

The question mark was who would have the run speed to win it, because the women’s race always felt like a shut down with Flora Duffy, Georgia Taylor-Brown and Jess Learmonth off the front.

Once Alistair was out of the mix you lost the athlete that drove the attacking racing and did a lot of the group splitting.

The groups ultimately came together in Tokyo because Blummenfelt always had the power of the Norwegian chasers closing the gap and a big benefactor of that was Yee.

I did believe Alex Yee had the arsenal to do well, whether he had the courage was a question mark and we saw him deliver. I thought Vincent could do it but given everything it would need to be a sprint finish.

Alex Yee Super League Triathlon Jersey 2021

It wasn’t ultimately a huge surprise how it shook down as it was like green bottles falling off the wall without the depth we had anticipated had it been a year earlier but still a remarkable race.

It is so hard to deal with as an athlete when you miss out on the goal you have been chasing your whole career.

The success of the Norwegians is driven by the fact they are always ready. Looking from the outside they appear to be ready at all times. No off season.

A lot of athletes are used to a seasonal flow of racing and have been doing it for maybe ten years. For that to be disrupted and have uncertainty is very difficult to deal with. Younger athletes deal with it better because it’s all new to them.

You saw the benefit of youth come through in Tokyo and without question that was huge.

I always say athletes age in dog years. One year is like seven years.

Two years in an athlete’s career is massive. You can go from the world’s best to outside the top ten in that period. That is a stressful thing as you age and difficult to navigate with uncertainty.

super league delivered in 2021

What Super League brought was certainty.

All the team that deliver Super League should be very proud because we delivered a complete Series and nobody has been able to do that.

It gave certainty to the athletes, to the networks, to our fan base. The athletes loved that and it all felt a bit more normal to them again.

I thought the London race to kick it off was amazing. It was so exciting to be back, a great venue, and to be in London, now the home of Super League, was awesome and so many people turned out even though we had to keep it low key.

Super League London Mens Wilde

A lot has changed and we know we have to make some adjustments to the racing but overall I am really happy with the four races over four weekends.

It was hard for the athletes to manage their training over a month of racing. You could see the athletes that were hollow and didn’t have that base work under them and Vincent was a victim of that. You could see it a mile off.

Those athletes that had been able to do the big builds like Alex Yee, Vasco Vilaca and Hayden Widle on the men’s side used that momentum.

I was stoked to be back and it was great to feel normal again, for the athletes to buy into so much and the events to be so exciting.

jess learmonth was immense but georgia taylor-brown deserved the series win

A lot of people have looked at what happened with Jess Learmonth and asked how you can win three events and not win the Series, but I think that’s what makes the Championship Series really cool.

The points system means you need to perform because you can’t drop your worst performance and so Georgia Taylor-Brown finishing second in every race proved she was the most consistent racer.

We had to ensure athletes couldn’t win three races and not turn up for the last race and still win the Series. That wouldn’t be right.

Super League Munich 2021

I like the points system and though I think it can be tweaked a little there should be more points on offer in the final.

Alex Yee really built into it and was out of this world. The men’s racing had a lot of different winners, people taking chances, and that really came from the SLT Teams racing, which will evolve a lot more next year.

We have never had a Series which was every weekend and we wondered how the last race in Malibu with three weeks of racing already, travel, jet lag, and then extra points on offer would play out.

I loved it. I enjoyed all the racing and I think next year with the addition of more races and spread out a bit it will be stronger than ever.

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