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2020’s Multisport Movers and Shakers: Jørgen Melau

This academic researcher is using the toughest triathlon in the world to help make the sport safer.

After a very weird 2020, we’re (finally) now headed into 2021—but there are still a lot of questions left unanswered, in the world and in our sport. Who will help shape triathlon? Who are the people working in front of and behind the scenes to do exciting, new, or interesting things? Who should you keep your eye on in the next multisport year?

We racked our brains, scoured the tri-space, and came up with this varied list of multisport movers and shakers—all of whom we’re looking forward to watching in 2021. We can’t wait to see what they do and how they change the sport in the year ahead. We’ve been revealing one person at a time, but Active Pass members can view the entire list right now. Today we’re highlighting an academic researcher who’s working to make triathlon safer.

JØRGEN MELAU

49 | Stavern, Norway
Academic Researcher/Paramedic

Jørgen Melau is driven by giving back to the sport he loves—and it’s what drives his research, too. While working as an air ambulance rescue paramedic in his native Norway, Melau wanted to find a way to stay in shape for his physically-demanding job. He discovered triathlon and soon began racing long-distance events, but it was only while standing on the shore of the Norseman swim course in 2015—and measuring a water temperature of 50 degrees F—that he began thinking about how potentially dangerous triathlon can be. This led to a complete career change for Melau, who is now working on a PhD in cold-water swimming. He is also the chief of the medical and safety crew at the Norseman race, which is widely considered to be one of the hardest, most extreme multisport events in the world. 

Norseman is unique for many reasons, but there aren’t many races anywhere that have a large research team dedicated to studying the effects of the race on the athletes taking part. “I feel fortunate to be able to give something back, doing research to make the sport better,” Melau said. ”We have done more and more research at Norseman. We currently do studies on lung functions, core temperature, biomarkers, heart function, and more. We also have produced some case reports on SIPE (swimming-induced pulmonary edema), which unfortunately seems to occur regularly at the race.

“Our ultimate goal is to make the sport safer. By that, we do not mean that the sport is unsafe in any way, but it is important to investigate if anything can be done to improve the sport. Long-distance triathlon, especially the extreme races, are also a unique opportunity to see how the human body reacts when pushed to its limits. Cold water, warm weather, lots of hills, high intensity for a long time—these extreme races have it all. We cannot replicate this very easily in a laboratory, so the opportunity to investigate at a race like Norseman is unique.”

Related for Active Pass Members: The Complete List of 2020’s Multisport Movers and Shakers