Mel weighs in on the athlete’s point of view on the whole Olympic Selection and Triathlon Australia debacle. If the athletes’ best interestsare in fact at heart, surely a team would already have been decided.

I certainly do not envy the role of the Triathlon Australia Elite Selectors Committee (TAESC), having to pick our Australian Triathlon Team for the 2012 London Olympics. But worse still, I would hate to be in the shoes of an elite athlete. On top of all the uncertainty as to whether or not they will race come these Olympics in August they, now have to change their preparation to try and produce world-class performances in TWO more races! – Two cities: San Diego and Madrid.

I really thought we would have the team selected by now and we should. It’s the end of April and the Olympics’ Triathlon is set on Saturday, August 4 at 9:00am (Women’s race) and Tuesday, August 7 at 11:30am (men’s race), some 14 weeks from now!

For any experienced athlete or coach, they would be in lock down right now. Knowing exactly what daily training they would be doing right until show time – The Olympics. Not, at last minute, now heading to the USA to race in order to hopefully secure a place in the team.  It would be likely that the athlete in preparation would be based in London or Europe, somewhere familiar to them, to ensure the least amount of stress in their preparation and close to the time zone of London.

Every minute of every day counts now. Two days lost in travel or trying to recover from a World Cup race, or flying to another time zone present a challenge to say the least. How can you peak now and then again in London? That is 14 weeks of trying to maintain form. I can tell you from experience, that this is very unlikely if you’ve raced recently and very intensely (physically, emotionally and mentally) like you were expecting it was for selection, as previously indicated.  Ideally, the next phase after racing like that would be back to solid training in a good environment and then a race or time trial a few weeks out to sharpen up before taper, and then bang, RACE DAY!

Let’s remember, this is no ordinary race. This is the pinnacle of sport. Their livelihood. It’s the ultimate achievement, and for most, a once in a lifetime opportunity.

The twist to the story, interestingly enough on TA website:

“Triathlon Australia (TA) has today announced the appointment of TA Board member Mr Anthony Beven to the role of Chair of the TA Elite Selection Committee (TAESC). Mr Beven replaces Dr Michelle Gallen who has stepped down from the position. (April 26, 2012)

“The process is being conducted in accordance with the ‘2012 Australian Olympic Team Triathlon Australia Nomination Criteria,’ Ms Gripper said. “No Australian athlete met the automatic nomination criteria which required them to win the ITU World Triathlon Series race in London in August in 2011 and finish in the top three positions of the ITU World Championship Series ranking as at September 12, 2012.”(I think that should read 2011, TA?).

The document goes on to read: “A key requirement in our Nomination Criteria, upon which all athletes rely, is that Triathlon Australia must nominate its final athletes to the AOC on May 31, 2012 and advice received from our legal advisors and from the AOC is that nominations cannot be made before this date.” So forget 14 weeks. These athletes have 9 weeks preparation from this date.

Obviously the criteria has failed our elite athletes, their coaches and management. Why? Because it should have been thought of over 1 year ago (or more if it were another country in planning). What if no one reaches the criteria? What is Plan B? Well now it’s all down to ‘discretionary selection’.

My mindset would be “what will give our Aussie athletes the greatest chance of performing at their best?” It certainly is not the current unknown, rumour based ‘she’s in, she was promised, she’s not, he might be in, but maybe not’ going around Triathlon circles.  Have we learned nothing from the past? When will logic and clear policy development and implementation occur? And I speculate here, but is it coincidence that an announcement date has been delayed and then a lawyer has been appointed Chair of selection? Did they suspect a legal battle on their hands? But knowing all too well, for an athlete in final preparation, would not proceed? May wisdom prevail, but I fear it’s too late.

Click here to read the press release on the newly appointed chariman of Elite Selection Committee


Mel Vandewater is a former professional triathlete, raced for Australia at three World Championships, was ranked 7th in the world for Long Course 09/10, and won Olympic Distance Open Elite in 2010. She is now coaching and running.

About The Author


Former professional triathlete
Bachelor of Applied Science (Occupational Therapy)
Level 1 Run Technique (ERA)
Level 1 Athletics Australia Accredited Coach
Foundations of Fitness Instruction Certified (AFN)

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4 Responses

  1. Bernadette Shanahan

    So incredibly frustrating to see people’s hopes, dreams and hard work coming second place to the political game play. Good report, thanks.

  2. Jo Stavrou

    Very disappointing that our triathletes will not be afforded the opportunity to perform their best in the race of all races! With the eyes of the world watching, it must surely be frustrating for these elites with the pressure of ppl waiting to see them give their best for their country.

  3. Catherine

    Nice overview Mel. Great insight. Imagine training/living with all that ‘extra’ sh*& to deal with. Go get em girls!!!! Cheers :)


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