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Triathlon News and Notes: Stacked Field in Canary Islands, Brownlee’s Olympic Commitment, and More

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

Big names to headline Challenge Race in Canary Islands next weekend

What do Jan Frodeno, Patrick Lange, and Daniela Ryf have in common? Other than nine Ironman World Championship titles among them, they’re all anticipated to race at Anfi Challenge Mogán Gran Canaria next weekend. Frodeno and Lange both confirmed their race plans on the start list via Instagram this week, while late last month Ryf alluded to getting in “hilly miles” in preparation for the undulating course on Spain’s Gran Canaria, part of the Canary Island archipelago off the coast of Western Sahara. (The course covers Challenge’s half distance, which is a 1900 meter swim, 90K bike, 21K run). Other names to watch on Canaria’s start list? Multiple Ironman champ Nils Frommhold on the men’s side as well as Ryf’s Swiss compatriot Nicola Spirig and Sweden’s Lisa Norden, both of whom on a great day could potentially challenge the reigning world champ.

Kirsten Kasper feeling “stronger than ever” as she eyes Olympic chase

USA Triathlon featured a short clip on Olympic hopeful Kirsten Kasper. The 30-year-old chats about going through the collegiate recruitment program after graduating from Georgetown University in 2014 where she was a standout distance runner, as well as setbacks suffered following a serious injury and a crash at the Tokyo test event in 2019. Now, Kasper said she’s feeling stronger than ever and is eyeing an Olympic berth with a new coach in Ian O’Brien–and a new home in Boulder, Colorado. “It’s been a long time coming,” she said of her Olympic dream. “I can’t even imagine what it’ll be like if I do become an Olympian.”

Escape From Alcatraz offering entry via random drawing

From now until April 30, any age-group athlete who wants a shot at participating in the famed Escape From Alcatraz tri can enter the random drawing for a chance to do just that. The 40th installment of the perennial bucket list race, which was cancelled last year, is set for an Aug. 15 date with a max of 2,000 competitors. Most of those entries will come from the drawing, which is free to enter (selected athletes will be notified by May 5, and will then have to secure their spot by paying the $750 entry fee); while separate slots are also available to pros, relay teams, challenged athletes, corporate teams, and those who deferred from 2020. Enter the drawing and get more info. 

Age-group triathlete survives near-fatal COVID battle, now plans to return to racing

It’s not every day you see triathlon pop up in People magazine, but this week the website features the remarkable story of Tom Butts, a 67-year-old attorney from San Jose, California who spent 110 days in the hospital last year while suffering from COVID-19. Butts, who has participated in eight Ironman events and was training for a 70.3 when he fell ill, was placed in a medically induced coma soon after arriving at the hospital in March of 2020  and remained in that state for 80 days. While Butts is still recovering from his COVID battle (during which his heart rate dropped to as low as 30 beats per minute and doctors prepared his family to say goodbye) he’s focusing on racing a half-Ironman in September. “Finishing, for me, will be a huge accomplishment,” he told People. “I don’t care how fast it is. I just want to finish.”

Alistair Brownlee admits he was “done” with the Olympics, but now wants Tokyo gold

A few years ago, two-time Olympic gold medalist Alistair Brownlee made a relatively seamless transition to long-distance racing (he won Ironman Australia in 2019 with a course record). But the 32-year-old is giving the Olympic dream one more go in 2021. Brownlee shared that years of “injury after injury” sapped his motivation and made him move on to long-course racing, saying that it’s actually easier on the body. But with the Games delayed a year, he’s now aiming to join his brother Jonny on the starting line in Tokyo–although he does have to qualify first. “I’m committed to being in the best possible shape and be ready to win in Tokyo,” he said. Recently, the brothers have been stateside, training at altitude in Santa Fe, New Mexico prior to the opening of the World Triathlon Championship Series season in Yokohama next month.

Andy Potts may be heading to the Olympics (but it’s not how you think…)

Andy Potts, one of the most decorated triathletes on the planet, is on a mission to get to Tokyo. But the 44-year-old isn’t vying to make Team U.S.A. in the traditional sense. Instead, he’s paired up with blind paratriathlete Kyle Coon as a guide and together, the two are going after one of two Paralympic slots for U.S. visually impaired men in Tokyo. Earlier this month, Coon, alongside Potts, won the men’s visually impaired category at the Sarasota-Bradenton Triathlon, beating seven-time world champion and the nation’s top-ranked men’s visually impaired paratriathlete Aaron Scheidies (the featured guest on the Triathlete Hour podcast this week). If Coon, who lost his sight to cancer when he was 6 years old, does get the Tokyo slot, Potts will become the first Olympian to guide a U.S. paratriathlete at the Paralympic Games. 

Hulu picks up doc backed by triathlete and trans advocate Chris Mosier 

Hulu has purchased Changing the Game, a documentary following three transgender teens on their journey through high school sports, for which triathlete Chris Mosier, the first trans athlete to represent Team USA served as executive producer. “This is the film everyone needs to see this summer and I can’t wait for it to be live,” Mosier posted on his Instagram account. Changing the Game, which debuted at the 2019 Tribeca Film Festival, will go live on Hulu on June 1.

Rach McBride featured in Sports Illustrated article about non-binary athletes 

Rach McBride, an openly gender nonbinary pro triathlete, is featured in a lengthy Sports Illustrated article about being an athlete in a binary world. In the piece, McBride, who identifies as they/them, expresses frustration about the binary world not fully grasping preferred pronouns, including a race broadcast that used the wrong pronouns “almost 100 times.” Said McBride: “It’s just like little pinpricks, every single time I hear [the wrong pronoun]. It’s like there’s just no effort given.”

Age Group Nationals sells out, waitlist open

Milwaukee, Wisconsin has quickly become one of the hottest destinations for age-groupers this summer. In a span of a few weeks, the USAT Age Group Sprint and Olympic Distance National Championships, set to take place in the city on Aug. 7 and 8, have both sold out, according to USAT. More than 5,200 participants are expected to compete at the event–and vie for a chance to qualify to represent Team USA at the 2022 World Triathlon Age Group Championships. Didn’t register in time? You can join the waitlist if you have received a qualification email, which includes both a waitlist link and a unique access code. Spots will be filled on a rolling basis as they become available.

Podcast Notes

  • Live Feisty and Outspoken founder, PhD, and Ironman champ Sara Gross shares how she’s using her content to shift the cultural narrative for athletic, performance-minded women on Channel Mastery. 
  • Paula Findlay pops on Convos Over Cold Brew with Emma Abrahamson to dig into her career–including the not-so-great moments–and the success of her YouTube channel with boyfriend Eric Lagerstrom.
  • Lisa Becharas, a relative newcomer on the pro scene, recaps her 8th place finish at Ironman 70.3 Texas last weekend on the IronWomen podcast.
  • Tower26 coaches Gerry Rodrigues and Jim Lubinski discuss the benefits of new goggle technology with Dan Eisenhardt, founder and CEO of smart goggle company Form.
  • Rich Roll showcases coach Chris Hauth, a former professional triathlete, Olympic swimmer and sub 9-hour Ironman, as well as Olympic swimmer Caroline Burckle for a round table discussion on bringing purpose and intention to strength and endurance goals.
  • In case you missed it: MX Endurance podcast posted a chat with Scotland’s pro triathlete Beth Potter about what it was like to drop the fastest 5K on the roads ever,  as well as her transition to triathlon. This week, they catch up with pro cyclist turned triathlete Adam Hansen, who weighs in on the Sub7Sub8 Project and how he builds his own bikes.