Can It Be Done: Go From Long to Short
Can It Be Done: Go From Long to Short? That is the quest of several athletes vying for a coveted spot at the Paris Olympics.
Two of the most notable of those is Kristian Blummenfelt. He already has an individual gold medal from the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. He then stepped up his distance training and nabbed a World Championship title at the 2021 IRONMAN World Championships held in St. George in May of 2022.
Now a year later he’s backed it down and is trying to regain the speed needed to be on the start line of the Paris Olympics in 2024. How have his results been in the WTCS races so far this year? I would say less than stellar, and certainly not at a level that would suggest he’s currently in the running to be a medal contender in Paris.
Blu was 8th at the World Triathlon Championship Series race in Yokohama. Then this past weekend in Cagliari, Italy he dropped his placing down to 15th. Two years ago when he surged to victory in Japan he looked nearly invincible. But so far this season he has yet to exhibit the form that left his competition scratching their heads on how they could ever beat the guy.
Even less impressive has been the 2022 IRONMAN World Champion Gustav Iden He won in Kona in controlled dominant fashion. But those two WTCS races he finished 39th and 42nd respectively. Consistent yes. An Olympic contender? Not unless he has a stratospheric improvement in his short distance racing.
So I ask the question again. Can it be done: go from long to short?
We’ve seen that it’s quite possible to go the other direction, which is to crush at short distance racing for a while then step it up to a full IRONMAN. However, at least in this sampling of two, it appears that stepping back down and regaining speed is not so easy.
It has been done though! Erin Baker won the IRONMAN World Championship in 1987 and was second in 1988. She then went from long to short in 1989 winning the inaugural ITU Olympic Distance World Championship in Avignon, France.
In my career I combined both long and short many times. After six IRONMAN World Championship starts, I too pitched up in Avignon in 1989 and was able to win as did Erin. Three months later I won my first title in Kona in the classic battle with Dave Scott.
Perhaps the most impressive of all was Karen Smyers who won her IRONMAN World Championship title in October 7, 1995, and then pulled off her second ITU World Championships victory barely a month later on November 12thin Cancun. So yes, it is possible.
So what is different now? Is the sport more competitive, or is it something else?
The two Norwegians are not the only ones who have struggles to regain short distance form. Chris McCormack followed a similar path to what has been happening this year. He won the 1997 ITU World Champs in Perth, then two Kona Championships (2007 and 2010). But then in 2012 he attempted the step down from long to short in hopes of being on the Australian Olympic team in London. He failed.
So on the surface, it does look like maybe the landscape has become less forgiving making it tougher to go from long to short. Do I think that athletes with the talent and commitment that Iden and Blu have can do what they have set out to do? Absolutely 100% yes, no question in my mind!
For sure the depth of talent is tremendous now. Just look at what Alex Yee and Hayden Wilde race in Cagliari, both running just over 28:30 for their 10k splits. Yes the course was slightly short, but the message is there: a podium finish in the Olympic distance is tough.
But that’s not why we haven’t seen either Kristian or Gustav hit their stride. I think it’s something else! To see what that is, check out the video below!
No matter what distance races you are targeting this year, I would love to help you have your best race ever!