Triathlon continues to be one of New Zealand’s fastest growing sports* but what is perhaps surprising is the incredible popularity of longer distance races with a number of events reporting significant growth year upon year.
In previous years that growth in the longer distance events mirrored that of the sport overall with increases of 12 to 13% each year. But already this summer that growth is looking to be closer to 25% in half Ironman racing, as events report record numbers, this despite the ‘recession’ and increasing demands on leisure and family time.
Headlining that list is the iconic Port of Tauranga Half Ironman that sold out its quote of entries in an hour a couple of months back and could, it seems, double in size overnight - if resources allowed.
Jane Patterson from The Patter believes it is nothing more than delivering an event that exceeds participants’ expectations. The Port of Tauranga Half Ironman and Ironman NZ Event Director explains.
“Since we have been running the Port of Tauranga event (2005) we have grown from a total of 850 people to over 1200 athletes this year and the point where we put up the ‘entries full’ sign.
“In one way it is now supply and demand and since the first ‘sell out’ we have a real urgency to enter for fear of missing out, like any event such as a concert can do. The triathlete is a very discerning customer though; they expect a certain standard on course, in safety, in their race pack. In essence they want value for money and we have to work hard to provide that.
“We are also blessed with a beautiful course and this is our key point of difference. The run around The Mountain and the finish on the beach is special, as is the timing with people relaxed and chilled on holiday. All of this combined with a professionally run event, great goodie bag and great sponsors delivers a great event that is value for money.”
Others too are experiencing good growth with Race Director Wayne Reardon reporting on record numbers returning to the Taupo Half Ironman this month.
“We are rapt about the growth in the sport and in two weeks we will have record numbers here in Taupo. I’m not sure as to why but the sport clearly is a great challenge for people, but one that most can have a go at. We focus on the event, the race itself. Our focus is on people having a great day, enjoying a safe and well run event.”
Growth is not a North Island exclusive with the new Wanaka Half Ironman attracting 300 entries already in the individual and a near capacity 100 teams across the half and ultra distance events.
Triathlon New Zealand CEO Dave Beeche applauds the work of the event promoters, without whom he says this sort of growth would not be possible.
“The initiatives of Tri NZ tend to be in the background as we look to facilitate the growth of the sport while event promoters such as Jane and Wayne do their work on the ‘frontline’ creating great events and experiences.
“Tri NZ works on three key areas of profile, pathways and performance. We invest time and energy in the promotion of the sport to make sure we are in the media year round maintaining a profile through the likes of our elite athletes racing internationally as well as our domestic programme led by the Contact Tri Series.
“Through our focus on pathways we enable everyone to find a place in the sport that fits them. Whether they are volunteers, participants, technical officials, coaches or promoters we have worked hard in recent years to make sure we offer easy ways into the sport with continued great experiences to keep them coming back again and again.”
Triathlon New Zealand has recently completed a Service Delivery Review looking in particular at the Pathways aspect of the sport. The document is a search for the optimal way to run the sport to best deliver all the services in the sport, from volunteers to coaching, to technical, to facilities and equipment and events.
“Our sport is event based, while there are plenty of great clubs, participants don’t have to join a club or sign up for a membership, and they can connect with the sport on event day only throughout a season,” said Beeche.
“Our challenge at Tri NZ in the ‘pay for play’ model is how we support that model and work with event promoters, coaches, clubs, schools, bike shops etc to make sure that every person that is interested in the sport is presented with a relevant opportunity to connect with the sport and continue in it long term.”
That Service Delivery Review document will shape much of the work of Tri NZ in these areas over the years ahead and can be viewed at www.triathlon.org.nz under ‘About Us’, ‘Documents’.