Triathlon News and Notes: Olympic Hopefuls, a Guinness World Record, and More

A look at some of the buzz we’ve picked up in the sport over the past seven days.

Photo: Janos Schmidt/

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Military and First Responders National Championships Slated for June

This week, USA Triathlon announced the rollout of the first-ever USAT Military and First Responders National Championships. Open to military, police, fire, and EMS personnel, the event will take place in Hammond, Indiana on Sunday, June 6 in conjunction with Leon’s Triathlon. The championships will feature both a sprint- and Olympic-distance race in the categories including Active Duty Military, Retired/Veteran Military, First Responder (Police/Law Enforcement); First Responder (Fire/EMS); the sprint distance will have three divisions for Paratriathletes as well. Eligible athletes can register at; the event does not require qualification.

USAT shines spotlight on Olympic hopefuls with Tokyo United campaign

In anticipation of the 2021 summer Olympics, USAT has announced its 2021 U.S. National Team as well as its Tokyo United campaign, intent on shining a spotlight on the top hopefuls for the games. So far, just one American athlete, Summer Rappaport, has secured a spot on Team USA with her top performance at the 2019 Tokyo Olympic Qualification Event. Also included on the list of potential Olympians include Katie Zaferes, Taylor Spivey, Matt McElroy, and Morgan Pearson, among others. As previously reported, the World Triathlon Executive Board has delayed all Olympic qualifying events until May 1 at the earliest. 

Dave Orlowski’s legacy honored with memorial grant

The Ironman Foundation is honoring the legacy of triathlon pioneer Dave Orlowski with a memorial grant in his name. One of the original Ironman finishers from 1978 and a member of the Ironman Foundation Board of Directors, Orlowski was a prominent figure in the sport and remained active despite living with leukemia, which he ultimately succumbed to last December. The $5,000 Dave Orlowski Memorial Grant will underscore Orlowski’s dedication to service through sport and community by recognizing charitable organizations. St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital received the first grant, and the next grant will be given to an organization within the Kailua-Kona, Hawai’I community,  the site of the Ironman World Championships and a location close to Orlowski’s heart. 

Guinness World Record holder triathlete featured in WSJ

Boston-based triathlete and coach Tony Rich–who holds the Guinness world record for the fastest time to complete a 140.6-mile indoor triathlon, which he did in 7 hours, 59 minutes in 2017–was prominently featured in the February 13 edition of the Wall Street Journal. Rich, who also hosts the Endurance Experience podcast, offers a series of six strength-training exercises targeted especially to triathletes. (Note: The story is behind a paywall.)

PTO taps gaming guro Balestra as CTO

The Professional Triathletes Organization continues to beef up its staff, this week added Christophe Balestra as its Chief Technology Officer. Formerly co-president of Naughty Dog, Sony Entertainment’s gaming development arm, Balestra–a triathlete himself–was instrumental in the creation of popular video game franchises Uncharted and The Last of Us. The hire underscores PTO’s aim to level up the broadcasts of major races, including the highly-touted Collins Cup event scheduled for August, to increase and engage the sport’s fan base. “Our goal is to implement and deliver the technological innovations now available so fans can be riveted by truly compelling broadcast products over numerous platforms,” Balestra said. 

Challenge Roth, Ironman races postponed

Another week, another round of postponed races. Headlining the list of the most recent delayed events is Challenge Roth, which was moved from July 4 to September 5. In his statement addressing the postponement, race director Felix Walchshöfer acknowledged that while travel restrictions and public safety are major concerns, part of the decision was rooted in the interest of competitors’ fitness levels, saying, “many participants are well behind in their training, especially when it comes to swimming.” The announcement also indicated that athletes can move their registration to next year, free or charge, or cancel outright for a refund of their entry fee less a processing fee.

Additionally, Ironman announced the delay of six races: Ironman 70.3 Marbella, Ironman 70.3 Venice-Jesolo, Zafiro Ironman 70.3 Alcudia-Mallorca, Ironman Mallorca, Ironman 70.3 Aix en Provence, Ironman Lanzarote. All were originally scheduled for April or May and will be pushed back to the fall. 

Challenge Wanaka goes off at limited capacity, with tiny pro fields

Meanwhile, Challenge Wanaka managed to go off in New Zealand on Friday, February 20, although with much smaller fields than usual. The popular Auckland half-Iron-distance race was relegated to a tiny event when recent Covid travel restrictions whittled down the pro start list to just three men and four women (some 790 athletes participated in the age-group event). In the end, Kyle Smith edged Braden Currie by 8 seconds in the men’s race, while Hannah Wells topped Rebecca Clarke for her second Wanaka win. 

Podcast Notes

  • U.S. pro Kelsey Withrow checks in with WITSUP Women in Triathlon podcast to talk about the many ups and downs in her career and how she’s learned and grown from each. 
  • My Suicide Race author Mark A. Turnipseed chats with Triathlon Taren about his journey from drug and alcohol addiction and crippling depression to self-acceptance, and using training for a triathlon as a vehicle to get him there.
  • Max Fennell is well known for being the first African-American professional triathlete, but he offers up quite a few more reasons for why he’s just may be the most interesting man in the sport on this week’s Triathlete Hour. 
  • Joel Filliol–AKA coach to world champs Katie Zaferes and Vincent Luis–talks about his career and the state of triathlon on the MX Endurance podcast. 
  • “Smiling assassin” and American Ironman record holder Heather Jackson talks self-confidence, tattoos, and her new coach Ryan Bolton, among other topics on the Greg Bennett Show.
  • The always candid Alissa Doehla shares her story, including transitioning from elite running to pro triathlon, and the pitfalls along the way with IMTalk.

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