I am a huge fan of the WTS series and follow it religiously to the point where I stayed up last night to watch both races in Edmonton. Having been involved at that level as a coach and been to many races that will always be the case.
This year has been interesting to watch and analyse the racing from our British athletes. While our female athletes have been racking up race wins and podiums our men on the other hand have not. 2018 is the first year that no British male athlete has been on a podium at a WTS event. With 2 races still to come that could change.
What is maybe more concerning is the lack of athletes racing at this level, and racing consistently. To the point where only 2 athletes- Jonny Brownlee and Tom Bishop can gain automatic starts into these races. The only other athletes who have started WTS races this season have been Marc Austin and Grant Sheldon- both with very mixed results. Gordon Benson has been injured since Abu Dhabi and has not raced since, Ali Brownlee has either been injured or focussed on other races and will not race a WTS race this year (as far as I am aware). Perennial top 10 performer Adam Bowden decided to step away from WTS racing after his funding was taken away and has stepped up and with great success to 70.3 racing.
Where is our next generation of potential WTS athletes going to come from? We have some incredible talent sitting just below with the likes of Alex Yee, Ben Dijkstra, Barclay Izzard and Sam Dickinson but for various reasons are not quite at the point of being able to step up to that level just yet.
My point being is that the Tokyo Olympics are 2 years away, and that only leaves 1 full season left of racing along with the start of the 2020 season too. We need more athletes racing consistently and stepping up at this level. It takes time and patience and a lot of learning to consistently perform at this level and the current top 5 have proven that over the last couple of years. My fear is that there is not enough time left before Tokyo to achieve that goal. Ultimately we could end up with the same situation as the previous 2 Olympic games with a team built around the Brownlee brothers- Could they do it for a 3rd time in succession? And would that be healthy for the state of the sport in Britain?
I am not saying it is easy and I am not criticising the system or the athletes/coaches, far from it. However other countries are producing a healthy number of consistent performers with most likely less resource. It could well be a stage in the current cycle of our athletes and the next 4 years could see a huge increase in performance while the old guard make way for the new. It has to happen at some point.
I look forward to seeing how it plays out and seeing male athletes back on the podium.