>Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last couple of years, you already know that Chrissie Wellington is the Queen of Ironman. She’s undefeated at the 140.6 distance – an amazing 11-0. She has set the world record at this distance twice (she recently lowered it to 8:36:13 at Ironman Arizona). While there are several highly accomplished female IM athletes – right now, she’s the cream of the crop.
Earlier this week, I read a really interesting blog article by Simon Whitfield (a darn good triathlete in his own virtue) wherein he essentially laid down a challenge for Chrissie to compete against what he calls the best triathletes in the world – ITU. Actually, he didn’t exactly say that ITU athletes were the best in the world, but he did say that ITU offers the “highest level of competition our sport has to offer” and “the best all around athletes in our sport.” Whitfield postulated that there was nothing left for her to compete for at the Ironman distance and that she should give the shorter ITU distance a go. As you might expect, the post generated a slew of comments – some agreeing with Whitfield, others disagreeing. (You can read the full post here)
Basically, the intent of the post (as I interpreted it) was to say that Chrissie should step down to a shorter event to prove that she is really the best female triathlete out there.
I’m not so sure that Chrissie wouldn’t perform at a very high level at an ITU race. She’s excelled at 70.3 distance, and has performed well at shorter distance races too. She’s clocked a 1:58 in an Olympic distance race before. As a comparison point, Emma Snowsill – arguably the best short-course racer – ran a 1:49 in the ITU World Championships earlier this year. The reality though, is there’s a huge difference between a draft-legal, two hour race and a solo, grind-fest, eight to nine hour race.
Will we see Chrissie race a short course race soon? Who knows. There was some talk that she’d make a run at the 2012 Olympics, but according to this article from Thetford & Brandon Times, Chrissie won’t be running at the Olympic games. Would her stepping down to a short course race be good for the sport? Maybe. It would probably generate more than a modicum of press (at least in the triathlon world) – but at the end of the day, would it really be any different than Sebastian Coe racing Carl Lewis at some random distance (like 600 meters)? (yes, I know you need to be a little old to even know who the heck Sebastian Coe is)
Personally, I think Chrissie could compete successfully at almost any distance. Since she doesn’t normally run shorter distance races, though, the topic will always be open for debate. In the battle of Chrissie versus the World – who would win? Not sure we’ll ever know.