Short course short-changes finishers at triathlon worlds

Olivier Marceau wins his first world title April 30 in Perth  Credit: Tony McDonough/Allsport
Australia's Nicole Hackett and France's Olivier Marceau were declared winners of the International Triathlon Union's World Championships April 30 in Perth, Australia. But both races especially the women's event are shrouded in controversy.

In the women's race (which got underway before the men), the final 10K running phase of the race was too short by more than 2 kilometers.

To make matters worse, Hackett, who had led from the start, was starting to break down and finished a mere seven seconds ahead of hard-charging Canadian Carol Montgomery, who started the run almost two minutes behind Hackett.

According to many race-day observers including four-time triathlon world champ Greg Welch if the course had been of proper length, Montgomery certainly would have crossed the line first.

"Poor Carol Montgomery," Welch said, lamenting the career race of the Canadian. "She had frickin' flames coming off the back of her heels."

The mis-measured run course was not discovered until a look at the women's 10K run splits showed that if the distance was accurate, Montgomery and many of the other athletes would have shattered the current 10,000-meter world record.

This touched off some immediate finger-pointing by ITU technical delegate Loreen Barnett, who claimed contracted surveyors were to blame. However, Barnett has since retracted the accusation, and as of now, it's not entirely clear who was responsible for the snafu.

The Canadian National Team lodged a formal protest about the shortened course. According to Welch, a jury of appeals met for over an hour before dismissing the appeal and upholding Hackett's victory.

But the disappointment may not be reserved for Montgomery alone.

Triathlon Australia was using this race and the April 16 Sydney world cup race as Olympic qualifiers. If an Aussie athlete crossed the line first at either race, they were to be guaranteed admission to the Australian Olympic Team.

Sydney world cup winners Michellie Jones and Peter Robertson already booked their tickets to Sydney, with victories in the April 16 world cup.

But Triathlon Australia director Tim Wilson said that due to the shortened course, Hackett's victory may not assure her of a spot.

Coming in third was Jones, 16 seconds ahead of American Barb Lindquist.

American women had a good day in Perth. In addition to Lindquist, 1996 Olympic swimming gold medalist Shelia Toarimina placed sixth and Siri Lindley finished 10th.

The "Keystone Kops" aspect of the ITU worlds wasn't reserved just for the women's race. A last-ditch attempt to correct the course for the men's competition may have caused more harm than good.

1997 ITU World Champion Chris McCormack alleged that ITU officials added a lap to the run course without telling the athletes beforehand. While it didn't affect his chances to win the race, the last-minute course addition might have had a serious impact on his attempt to make the Australian Olympic team.

"(The ITU) said it was 2 1/2 laps for the run," McCormack said. As a result of this information, McCormack put together his finishing kick a full lap early.

After realizing he still had another lap to run, and after being drained of his energy trying to out-sprint other competitors, McCormack was caught by a chase pack of several athletes and faded to finish 15th overall.

But the course change didn't seem to effect men's winner and new world champion Marceau, who worked with French teammates Carl Blasco and Stephan Bignet and Australian Craig Walton to extend their lead over the bike course.

Because Australian triathletes were in effect competing against each other for Olympic spots, Walton did much of the work at the front of the lead pack in the hopes of gaining time on fellow Aussies, including running phenomenon Peter Robertson.

"Craig was the gutsy race of the day," Welch said. "He was like Hercules on the front of the bike pack. He pulled those guys around all day. And that's why Oliver Marceau won the race and Craig Walton got third. Otherwise, Robertson would have won it."

Despite being 1:20 down on the main pack, Robertson ran a 31:02 10K to finish second, only 14 seconds behind Marceau.

American Hunter Kemper had a good day, finishing seventh overall, 37 seconds behind the winner.

Kemper, who will be attempting to qualify for the U.S. Men's Olympic triathlon team May 27 in Dallas, has been forced into a workhorse role for the U.S. men.

Instead of concentrating of the trials, he was in Perth in an attempt to secure more Olympic spots for the U.S. men.

The United States had locked up three Olympic spots late last year, but inactivity by Kemper, Nick Radkewich and the rest of the U.S. hopefuls has since limited them to just one qualifying spot. The United States was faced with having to rely on a stellar placing by Kemper to secure another.

It is not certain yet if Kemper's perfomance has netted the U.S. any more spots for Sydney.

2000 ITU World Championships
April, 30 Perth, Australia

Women: 1.5K swim, 40K bike, 8K run

1. Nicole Hackett (AUS) 1:54:43
2. Carol Montgomery (CAN) 1:54:50
3. Michellie Jones (AUS) 1:55:25
4. Barb Lindquist (USA) 1:55:41
5. Anja Dittmer (GER) 1:55:46
6. Sheila Taorimina (USA) 1:55:50
7. Emma Carney (AUS) 1:55:56
8. Brigitte McMahon (SUI) 1:55:59
9. Akiko Hirao (JPN) 1:56:01
10. Siri Lindley (USA) 1:56:02

Men: 1.5K swim, 40K bike, 10K run

1. Olivier Marceau (FRA) 1:51:41
2. Peter Robertson (AUS) 1:51:54
3. Craig Walton (AUS) 1:51:58
4. Carl Blasco (FRA) 1:52:08
5. Hamish Carter (NZL) 1:52:14
6. Eric Van der Linden (NED) 1:52:16
7. Hunter Kemper (USA) 1:52:17
8. Stephan Bignet (FRA) 1:52:18
9. Dennis Looze (NED) 1:52:25
10. Greg Bennett (AUS) 1:52:26

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