Despite 70.3 Success, Ben Kanute Says ITU Is Still the Focus

After stellar silver medal showing at 70.3 Worlds, American Olympian Ben Kanute has his sights set on ITU Grand Final, Super League Triathlon and Tokyo 2020.

American Olympian Ben Kanute raced into the hearts of thousands of triathlon fans along the race course and those watching via live stream of the Ironman 70.3 World Championship in Chattanooga, Tenn., on Sunday.

The 24-year-old double NCAA club collegiate champion led from the gun and held that lead for 3 hours 21 minutes and 50 seconds after a strong bike until fellow Olympian and now eight-time world champion Javier Gomez Noya of Spain overtook him on the half-marathon run leg with a blistering pace to claim his second 70.3 crown.

“I had a great swim and on the bike I was surprised at the size of the gap I was getting and it got me excited and starting to think about what could happen,” Kanute told Triathlete in a post-race sit-down interview. “I’ve always liked non-drafting formats, and I think it fits my style of racing a little bit better.

“It’s a little bit harder to take advantage of my strengths on the swim and the bike in the ITU style of racing. My run has been coming along well, but it’s not at the level of Javier or some of those guys that run ITU.”

The 2015 national champion and USAT elite athlete of the year, who won both the NCAA draft-legal sprint and non-draft Olympic distance titles two years earlier, says his transition into half-Ironman distance is a natural progression.

“Each year it’s just setting goals and just slowly chipping away at it,” explained Kanute. “It definitely didn’t happen overnight and there has been a lot of hard work that’s been put into it. I’ve always kind of eyed this sort of stuff, but I believe pretty strongly too in starting off short and getting speed and then slowly building up the base required to race something like half-Ironman.

“Each year I’ve kind of gotten a little bit better and checked off certain boxes,” he continued. “It’s the same way I approach racing. I have a bunch of different process goals and hopefully that ends up with the results that I want.”

For Kanute, who travels to Rotterdam this weekend to race the ITU Grand Final followed by his Super League debut on Jersey Island, finding the balance to do it all is the key.

“My coach and I have done a good job balancing the strength and endurance required for 70.3 as well as the speed required for ITU and under,” he said. “I would love to move over to 70.3, but I still feel I have some unfinished business in the ITU series, and with the mixed team relay coming into play in 2020 [at the Tokyo Olympics], I think that’s the future of the sport.

“It will be interesting to balance both disciplines and I think the half-iron training has actually helped in some ways my ITU racing in just being stronger. I am excited for the future because I am racing the races I want to race, which is important because it keeps the fire lit.”

But with all the recent success in all disciplines of the sport, Kanute admits there is still a lot left to learn as he matures into what he hopes is a championship-caliber contender.

“When you look at my trajectory in the sport there has been some pretty high highs, but then some pretty low lows,” he shared. “They kind of go back and forth each year, but it’s been a steady incline, a steady progression. I’m just trying to find what works best for me and I think I’m staring to figure that out now more than ever.”