By Merryn Sherwood on 23/03/12 at 10:28 am
It might be Per Wangel‘s first Team ITU experience this weekend, but it didn’t take him long to start realising the special ingredient that the ITU development programme could add to his triathlon career.
Not just the elite support team, that includes access to elite coaches, the best bike mechanics, world class physiotherapists and help with hotels and flights, but the programme’s ability to help talented athletes from emerging National Federations believe in themselves.
The 20-year-old from Sweden decided one year ago to switch to triathlon full time after juggling it with elite cross country skiing, and received his first Team ITU invitation from ITU Development Director Libby Burrell this year. He will compete in the ITU Triathlon Premium Oceania Cup in Mooloolaba on Sunday.
“Libby talked about believing in yourself and it doesn’t matter what everyone else thinks, just do your own race,” Wangel said. “I’ve had a good base for this race, so I just want to go out there and try my best.”
Last year Slovenia’s Mateja Simic was in a similar position, making her ITU World Cup debut in Mooloolaba with Team ITU. Except that for Simic, it wasn’t her first year at the top level, but 16 years after she won a silver medal in the Junior Women’s race at the 1995 ETU European Championships in Stockholm. She finished in 27th place in Mooloolaba, and then started to accumulate European Cup podiums at a rapid rate, followed by silver at the 2011 Edmonton World Cup. It was the first World Cup medal for a Slovenian athlete and right now, the 32-year-old mum is on track on be the first Slovenian triathlete to qualify for the Olympics. She said she could hardly believe the ride.
“My first World Cup was here in Mooloolaba, I came into the team without any expectations, not with an idea about Olympics. I just said ‘I will try it,’ and I did well last year,” she said. “After that, everything went up, up, up. I was really surprised. If I looked now one year ago without any expectations, now I’m a candidate for London. It’s unbelievable, so I just have to say thank you to Libby and the development team, they believe in me and show me that I am able to do this.”
While her biggest fan, three-year-old son Luka, is back in Slovenia, Simic said that belief had help her finally realise the talent she showed as a junior.
“Here, I am surrounded by people who believe in my abilities and this changed a lot in my mind,” she said.
While each of the athletes racing for Team ITU this weekend have different goals, for Israel’s Fanny Beisaron it’s improve her swim and for her compatriot Ron Darmon, it’s to conquer the tough 10km run. Estonia’s Aleksandr Latin is like Simic, chasing that Olympic goal.
“I have an older brother, Vladimir, who is a professional rower, he has already been to the Olympics in Beijing,” Latin said. “So I would like to meet him in London. That’s my goal.”
But following Team ITU’s message, that was reinforced during the team meeting last night, he won’t be thinking about the qualification process and points tally during the race. Instead he’ll focus on the hard yards he’s put in over the last five weeks on the Gold Coast, with three-time Mooloolaba champion Brad Kahlefeldt.
“I’m trying not to think about it, I’m just focusing on swim, bike and run, and then, we’ll see, nothing is impossible,” Latin said. “But the last five weeks I did really well, I was training on the Gold Coast with Brad Kahlefeldt, so the preparation was great, I’m looking forward to racing tomorrow. I like the course actually, I like tough running, tough cycling and the ocean swim.”
And he also thanked Team ITU, for providing that little bit of extra support.
“They’ve helped me to reach for my goal,” Latin said.
The 2012 ITU Mooloolaba World Cup is the first Team ITU event for this year, the programme will also run in Huatulco. For more on ITU development, please click here.
Find more details about this event - 2012 Mooloolaba ITU Triathlon World Cup