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Why don’t we care about the Aquathlon World Championships? (And why we should!)

SwimRun events are gaining in popularity around the world - how you can watch tomorrow's world championship event in Slovakia

Photo by: World Triathlon/ Wagner Araujo

Considering the event is very accessible since participants don’t need to own a bike, one would think that Aquathlon – a swim followed by a run – would be a popular multisport option. And, despite the fact that it’s possibly the least-known of the World Triathlon events (OK, Aquabike might compete for that title), tomorrow’s Aquathlon World Championship Samorin will actually have the largest field (over 400 participants) of all the events taking place this weekend at what the Professional Triathletes Organisation is calling the “Ultimate Triathlon Week.”

(This week the x-bionicsphere in Samorin, Slovakia will play host to the Aquathlon World Championship Samorin, the Collins Cup, the World Triathlon Long Distance World Championships and Aquabike World Championship.)

Despite the fact that the event might not be as well known, the Aquathlon World Championship has seen some pretty impressive champions over the years since it was first held in 1998. Three-time Kona champ Craig Alexander took the bronze medal the first year the race was run in 1998. Tim Don won the championship title in 2005. Canada’s own Matthew Sharpe took the title in 2017. ¬†Slovakia’s Richard Varga is a four-time world champion in the event (2010, 2012, 2013 and 2015) has also earned a couple of silver medals at the Aquathlon World Championship – in 2016 he took second to training partner Alistair Brownlee, and last year he finished second to David Castro Fajardo.

In terms of women, Australia took all three podium spots in 1998 when Rina Hill, Nicole Hackett and Melanie Mitchell dominated the day. Triathlon Magazine Canada contributor Pip Taylor (AUS) took bronze in 2000, while Americans Siri Lindley and Sheila Taormina were first and third in 2001. Canada has had a few medalists in years past, too, with Jill Savege taking silver in 2002, Elsbeth McGregor taking silver in 2006 and Ayesha Rollinson earning bronze in 2007, the year another big name – Sarah True (then Groff) – took gold.

Photo: World Triathlon

Typically the event includes a 2.5 km run, a 1 km swim and another 2.5 km run, but some years, as we’ll see this year in Samorin, the event includes a 1 km swim followed by a 5 km run. (Just ’cause Edmonton likes to be different, in 2001 it hosted a 2km/ .75/ 2km race.)

The gear you need for an Aquathlon is pretty simple – a tri suit, goggles and running shoes. The event is lots of fun, too – especially ¬†when you have to run, dive into the water and swim, then run again. For the most part the racing is pretty low key, especially when the race used to be held alongside the Olympic-distance world championships – many athletes used it as a tune up for that event. Now the race is part of the Multisport World Championships. You’ll still see many athletes use this as a tune up for the long-distance worlds on the weekend.

It’s not as though swimming and running events aren’t popular, either. The famous Otillo race series got its start in 2011 and has grown to become a popular team event where two-person teams alternate between swimming and running along a course that goes between islands or lakes. In Canada there’s the Mudskipper SwimRun Challenge races that take place across Canada from Vancouver to Sackville, N.B., with races ranging from 8.5 km to 20 km, with an ever-growing cadre of athletes trying out these unique multisport races.

All of which has hopefully piqued your interest and will encourage you to tune in to tomorrow’s Aquathlon World Championship Samorin. Unfortunately Richard Varga won’t have the opportunity to thrill his hometown crowd with another title as he’s been sidelined with an Achilles tendon injury. That will leave Ukraine’s Yegor Martynenko as the top-seeded man in the race, with the likes of France’s Arnaud De Lustrac, Hungary’s Mark Devay and Serbia’s Ognjen Stojanovic providing lots of competition.

For the women Romania’s Antoanela Manac will arrive as the top seed, with Ukraine’s Sofia Pryyma and Maryna Kyryk likely to be in the mix, too.

The races start at 10:30 AM local time (4:30 AM EST) and will be streamed live on TriathlonLIVE.tv