From 7 to 9 February, the cream de la crème of triathlon met at the 2nd ITU Science and Triathlon World Conference in Magglingen, in the Swiss Olympic training centre. The Triathlon Research team, with two poster presentations and a lecture, was Austria´s only active representative. The relaxed, informal atmosphere- that quickly made the fine suits disappear into the wardrobe, combined with the professional organisation of, above all Dr Adrian Burgi and Professor Grègoire Millet, made these three days a real experience. Not only the sociable evening activities -including a torchlight hike to a forest hut followed by Swiss cheese fondue, but also the mixture and quality of the lectures contributed to this being a fantastic conferebce. Insights and comparisons to cross-country skiing, biathlon and the swimming, cycling and running specialists were also given to the participants and demonstrated new opportunities, as well as parallels, to triathlon. The conference started with presentations from the two coaches of Brownlee brothers -Malcolm Brown and Jack Maitland. Perhaps better: they reported on the social environment of the athletes and the team, and provided general information about the training of the Brownlee brothers. Top news or deeper insights into their training secrets and success, however, were denied to the attentive listener. In addition to those by the top Spanish coach, Dr Eneko Llanos, and the tapering expert Professor Iñigo Mujika, the best ranked talks included that by the Canadian physiologist Professor Kerry Stephen Seiler. His elaborate and impressive studies of world-class athletes in triathlon and other sports, covering what is already known as well as new knowledge in the field of physiology and training theory, inspired some trainers to think. His results showed that almost all the top endurance athletes, including triathletes, use polarized training. By this, priority throughout the year is given to training in the basic area and only small percentages around or above threshold. Hans-Christer Holmberg, a professor at the University of Östersund, the director of the Swedish Winter Sports Research Center, and responsible for research and development at the Swedish Olympic Committee, also illustrated new methods of examination and testing of Nordic athletes in his talk. He also reviewed the physiological similarities and differences between these and the sport of triathlon.
Jürgen Wick, the German biathlon expert, explained the latest changes and the further steps in the biathlon, which gave rise to ideas and suggestions for the marketing of triathlon sports. During a beer in the evening we discussed Austrian biathletes and their “little problems”. Wick called me the epidemic last year, but he particularly emphasized the problem of the bi-athletes’ two-league air. Olivier Aubel, Senior Lecturer at the University of Lausanne, spoke about the current situation of professional cycling. He illustrated the problems and possible structural changes that were taking place, so as “clean” up its image in international sport and society. He noted the difficulties in doing so giving the prevailing attitude of (several) responsible persons! ITU Sport Director Markus Gergely then presented new methodical considerations and plans for the sport of triathlon, with a particular focus on the team competition, which will be given special emphasis in the future. The reasons for the new bike course at the World Cup event in Kitzbühel were also explained in this context. Furthermore, Steve Ingham talked about the meaning and proper application of regeneration possibilities and strategies. It became clear that cold baths, massages, etc. … are not necessarily useful during a training session, as the body is given the opportunity to get used to and adapt to the strain (lactate). Before competitions, where no structure but only the maintenance or regeneration plays a role, its application seems to be meaningful.
The Swiss Dr Adrian Bűrgi used his presentation to illustrate the career development of the top 30 male and female athletes last year. The most varied trajectories, especially between men and women, are striking. However, almost all of these athletes stated that they were trained by a triathlon coach and not by specialist trainers! Thomas Moeller, of the Institute for Applied Training Science in Leipzig, and his junior coach, also demonstrated the current system of talent detection anfd promotion system in Germany. The Australian star coach Dr Darren Smith gave an insight into his vision of a coach and what his own training looks like: no favours and exceptions from athletes, no lactate controls but maintaining harmony and strength within his team. In addition, his main focus is on the observation of athletes during training in all weathers. As a former coach of Andi Giglmayr we chatted about the triathlon sport in Austria and about the (fingertip) feeling and trainer eye, which he sets above all physiological performance parameters! Success proves him right! Also interesting was the conversation with the Russian biomechanist, who explained his personal views about running. It was also nice to see that for three days each lecturer received the greatest attention from all participants and none of the coaches and experts left the congress before the closing ceremony. It would be desirable if at the third ITU Congress more active participants would represent Austria!