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Olympic triathlon distance could be halved for Tokyo 2020, Alistair Brownlee dislikes possibility

Brownlee at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games.
Brownlee at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games.

According to an article in The UK Times, ITU president and International Olympic Committee member Marisol Casado has  stated that she would like the next Olympic Games’ triathlon to be a sprint distance instead of the traditional length that was created when triathlon became an Olympic sport. She also believes that ultimately, “the governing body’s wishes will be carried through.”

The current Olympic distance comprises a 1.5 km swim, 40 km bike and 10 km run. This is also the current length of races on the WTS circuit. Casado is saying she would like to see that distance halved for Tokyo 2020, “to make the sport more appealing to television audiences and help pave the way for the inclusion of a new mixed relay format.” The changes would eventually take effect for WTS races as well.

In the article, a quote from Alistair Brownlee suggests the two-time Olympic gold medallist thinks the switch to the shorter distance would be a mistake.

“It’s quicker and more dynamic from a spectator point of view, but I’ve lost count of the number of people who have come up to me and said it’s the toughness of the event that appeals,” he says. “It’d be a real shame to lose that.”

An elite level sprint distance race runs for approximately 50 minutes in length whereas the Olympic distance takes closer to two hours.

Casado indicated that a switch to the sprint could make way for the introduction of semi-finals. She also believes that these changes are a likely possibility

“The IOC are not going to tell ITU what to do,” she said. “They understand the national federations know the market and they are not going to say you have to do it one way or another.”

Right now, the ITU’s priority is getting a mixed-relay format triathlon introduced into future Olympic Games.

Fans can expect an announcement to be made in early 2017.