As Canada’s most populous province, it isn’t a surprise that Ontario has the highest number of triathletes in Canada. Just like every other province, Ontario got walloped by Covid-19 during the year. So, in such a difficult time, were there any bright moments in Ontario’s triathlon scene? We put that question, and a few others, to the executive director of Triathlon Ontario, Phil Dale.
Triathlon Magazine Canada: What specifically is your role as director for Triathlon Ontario?
Phil Dale: I oversee a team of people whose goal is to promote multi sport in the province. We oversee coaching and official’s certifications, we sanction events, we do athlete development for everything up to the national team level.
In a non-COVID year, what are some of the biggest races in Ontario?
We have the Toronto Triathlon Festival, that has about 1,500 people in it. It’s a unique race because you can ride on the Gardiner Expressway. There is the Muskoka 70.3 which has been running for quite a while and used to be a full Ironman distance event. There is also the Barrelman Triathlon which is held in the Niagara Falls area.
Do you think that because Muskoka is in cottage country and away from the major population centres, that it has a better chance of being run next year?
That’s really hard to say. From an organizational standpoint there are ways that it could be made to lessen the impact the community, whether it is held longer over the course of a day or even over a couple of days, but it is up to the local health authorities to make that call. It is interesting to note, though, that even before COVID, races in the province were being designed to leave a smaller impact on the community.
Are there any new multi sport stars coming out of Ontario that we should know about?
One thing we are excited about is our long course development team. It is designed to help those younger athletes who come from short course racing and want to give the longer races a try and maybe turn pro. Two of our success stories are Tamara Jewitt and Jackson Laundry. Looking at short course, we as a country are struggling to convert junior racers into successful U-23 or elite athletes. We’ve always had some good junior talent, but have had keep them in the sport or keep them successful once they have moved up.
What are your thoughts about how the 2021 season may look?
One possibility is that we see races like the Canadian Pro championships race in the fall. They had a stand-alone swim,. then they move to a different location for the bike and run. Races will probably be structured a bit differently than they have in the past. One approach is to have a cohort approach, maybe groups of 100 and send them off in smaller groups. Maybe we could see a half-dozen races of that type.
With all the extra safety precautions in place, as well as smaller overall fields in races, do you see the cost of the events going up?
Well, I don’t think that we are going to be in this situation forever. It’s a temporary situation and my sense is that race directors aren’t going to see this as a reason to raise the entry fees. Our race directors have been very resourceful and they have always put the customer first, so I think if they have to be a bit lean for another summer and weather the storm, that’s what they’ll probably do. So, I don’t think you’ll see any massive price hikes anytime soon.
Is there a message that you’d like to tell all the triathletes in Canada?
Sure, the main thing is for athletes to stay patient. Stay in the sport. Keep training. Support your local race directors. This is the time to race in your own back yard. Take a year to look at those local races that you have never done and do those.