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Saturday, November 12, 2011

Open Water Swimming Leads The Pool And Triathlons

Courtesy of WOWSA, Huntington Beach, California.

After the successful inclusion of mixed-gender team pursuit relays in open water swimming, the triathlon world - and perhaps less likely the pool swimming world - seem to agree their open water swimming colleagues are onto something big.

The International Triathlon Union announced that the Triathlon Mixed Relay will be officially added to the 2018 Commonwealth Games and perhaps added to the Glasgow 2014 Games. The format was also accepted by the 2014 Incheon Asian Games.

While the International Triathlon Union has grasped the mixed-gender team relay as a popular and innovative format of the sport, the open water swimming community has proven the mixed-gender team pursuit relays are fun, exciting and competitive.

In contrast, many pool swimming coaches hold the opposite opinion for the pool swimming community after FINA recently floated the possibility of pool mixed-gender relays.

So while open water swimming national teams like Australia have their open water swimming superstars like Ky Hurst and Melissa Gorman join forces in a 5 km team pursuit relay at the 2011 World Swimming Championships, the triathlon world is also heading in that direction.

Marisol Casado, the International Triathlon Union President and an IOC member, said, "We are delighted the Commonwealth Games has embraced the Triathlon Mixed Relay. The event offers a wonderful opportunity for men and women to race together for one Commonwealth medal, signalling the importance of balanced development and performance in the sport. We believe the discipline can offer the spectators, press and broadcasters a wonderful experience, while placing almost no additional costs on the organising committee as the same venue can be reused and no extra athletes are required."

While the standard open water swimming team pursuit relay consists of three individuals, at least of one gender, where the official time is the time of the last swimmer, the Triathlon Mixed Relay consists of four athletes: two men and two women, who each complete a short, intense triathlon of a 250m swim, 5 km bike and 1.2 km run in the order woman, man, woman, man. The new format has enjoyed phenomenal success since the discipline changed from the original single sex team format in 2009. The recent Triathlon Mixed Relay World Championships in Switzerland saw athletes compete from all five continents.

Those World Championships were broadcast 253 times over 93 hours around the world where over 571 million TV contacts were documented. That success has emboldened the triathlon world to lobby for the Triathlon Mixed Relay event to be added to the 2016 Rio Olympics. The International Triathlon Union will submit its official bid next year to the IOC.

With the success in the open water swimming world, there is no doubt that the mixed-gender format will take off in sports where open water swimming is involved.

Photo shows a mixed-gender team pursuit team from the Pacific Open Water events in Long Beach, California.

Copyright © 2011 by World Open Water Swimming Association

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