Triathlon Australia kicks off key overhaul of High Performance Program



In December 2016, Triathlon Australia unveiled a revolutionary restructure of its High Performance Program. Trizone caught up with Triathlon Australia’s CEO, the organisation’s High Performance Director and a raft of senior coaches to discuss this exciting new chapter.

Australia set to have world’s best triathlon coaching structure

“My philosophy is that to have the best athletes in the world, they need to be governed by the best coaches and coaching structure,” Triathlon Australia CEO Miles Stewart told Trizone.

Ben Gathercole, the newly appointed High Performance Director or Triathlon Australia agreed. “We’re a sport of huge training load, and the answer to going faster shouldn’t be to do more,” he said. The two men have been working around the clock to implement a brand-new structure within Australian triathlon to help drive better results for Australian athletes on the world stage.

Newly-appointed High Performance Director Ben Gathercole joined Triathlon Australia after a stint at the Brumbies, saying, “I’m back to the sport I love. The truth is, triathlon is my sport, and I grew up on it.” Gathercole’s passion for the sport is palpable, indicated by his quick implementation of new structures within Triathlon Australia, placing Wollongong Wizards’ Jamie Turner at the helm of the International Performance Centre.

“He’s the world’s best coach,” Gathercole said. “We want to put the best athletes with the best coaches, in the best training environments. Jamie Turner is both an incredible coach, and has high moral standards and is every ethical in what he does. He’s in it because he wants his athletes to succeed, it’s not about him.”

Gathercole and Triathlon Australia’s admiration for Turner is clear, and the sentiment is mutual. “I’m bloody certain Triathlon Australia has created the best opportunities for these athlete,” put in Jamie Turner. ‘It was a natural extension of the relationship we’ve already had.”

What’s new at Triathlon Australia for 2017

As well as naming Ben Gathercole as Triathlon Australia’s new High Performance Director and Jamie Turner as its new head coach, a number of other exemplary coaches have been appointed to steer new pathways. Chris Lang will head up the National Performance Centre in Brisbane, focusing primarily on Junior and paratriathlete development.

Dan Atkins on the Gold Coast will take the helm of the National Paratriathlon and Elite U23 Development Program, with Darren Smith assuming the role of Triathlon Australia’s HP Special Advisor.

“We’ve pretty much got the senior coaching structure down pat,” CEO Miles Stewart said. “The vision now is to look at where our athletes are at now, and build our coaching stocks. If the juniors and U23 athletes aren’t coming through structurally sound or conditioned, there’s no point handing them over to Jamie at the High Performance Centres as they won’t be ready. We need to make sure we’re solid the whole way through the pathway, so that’s what we’re working on.”

Paratriathletes join able-bodied triathletes in training

Another exciting development is the integration of paratriathletes with able-bodied athletes. “This move was driven by the coaches,” Ben Gathercole noted. “It almost changes the perception within your squad, and Dan and Chris see that as a fantastic thing. The paratriathletes are really good, and they don’t sulk, they just get on with it. It’s really exciting to see them join the other athletes in some areas of training.”

Triathlon Australia is at a pivotal point in terms of its paratriathlete development, and the integration of training will be key in positioning Australia as leaders in Paratriathlon. “Paratri is relatively new,” said Gathercole. “Now we need the athletes to move on from basic skills to a sustained high level training program. I don’t see why we can’t have our athletes together for certain programs.”

Triathlon Australia on creating ethical athletes

The Runaway Bay event in Queensland earlier this month saw a handful of powerful juniors battle it out over six gruelling races to examine Australia’s burgeoning talent. “We get an indicator of who’s coming up through the programs, and where they sit. It also gives the kids a taste of what the future holds, and they meet the best coaches and athletes in the world,” said Miles Stewart.

Gruelling due to its rigorous multi-day program, the event is a key indicator for Triathlon Australia, but it’s also a chance to teach kids more than just racing. “It’s not just about how fast you are,” said Stewart, “It’s also about the skills you can display and good etiquette and behaviour.”

Both Stewart and Gathercole were thrilled with the sportsmanship showcased over the weekend, particularly from Lorcan Redmond. “When Lorcan finished in second, he went over to grab a drink. He got one for the winner and went over and shook his hand. That shows a lot of character,” said Stewart. “You get more out of these races than just racing, it’s about learning personal characteristics for the future.”

It’s all about medals at Tokyo 2020

Triathlon is hoping to install ethical racing behaviours in its athletes, but ultimately it comes down to medals. “My task will be working with our categorised athletes [who] have the potential for medals at the Commonwealth Games and Tokyo,” Gathercole underlined.

“Prioritising high performing athletes is key to winning medals, which are vital to the sport’s future in Australia,” added Miles Stewart. “If we go through another four year period without any medals, we’ll have reduced funding. That’s just how it works.”

“The whole thing revolves around Australians winning medals. The more growth we get out of our coaches, the more access kids will get opportunities, and the more likely we are to get medals,” Stewart said. “We need the best coaches in the world.”

With huge developments underway, many of which are still under wraps, we’re excited to see what will happen in 2017.

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