Triathlon - 28 Feb 2013 - By Catherine Davies in Madrid
Four months after securing re-election as president of the International Triathlon Union, Spain's Marisol Casado has begun to implement far-reaching changes that could take the sport in new directions.
One of the most significant developments has been a growing rapprochement with the ITU's former rival, the World Triathlon Corporation, the organiser of the Ironman series of long-distance triathlons, which culminate with the legendary Hawaii Ironman each October.
Casado, who is also an International Olympic Committee member, met Andrew Messick, chief executive of the WTC, which owns the Ironman events, during last year's Hawaiian event to discuss future collaboration between the two bodies - confirming the very real possibility that the Ironman Corporation could organise the ITU's own Long Distance World Championship at some point in the near future, a move that would have been unthinkable a few years ago.
In the past, during the presidency of Casado's predecessor Les McDonald, who headed the federation from its founding in 1989 to 2008, the ITU had been at loggerheads with the WTC over a range of issues, including doping, race sanctions and use of the term 'world championship'.
But those days are gone, said Casado, who told Sportcal in an exclusive interview in Madrid that relations between the two bodies "are on the right path." The ITU has also built a strong relationship with rival long-distance event organiser Challenge, which will organise the 2013 European Long Distance Triathlon Championships in September in Vichy, France.
In addition to bringing the disparate elements of triathlon closer, Casado is also working to restructure the federation itself, one of the main goals of her second term as president.
During her first four years, Casado was reluctant to implement radical changes at a time when it was building the new format of its flagship event, the ITU World Championships, which was reformatted from a single-event race to a year-round series and rebranded as the World Championship Series (now the World Triathlon Series) in 2009.
The ITU had recently signed a partnership with German agency Upsolut, a subsidiary of French media group Lagardère Unlimited, to market the commercial and media rights of the series. The series has been highly successful, allowing the ITU to focus time and funds on its second-tier series, the ITU World Cup, which has, according to Casado, "very strong developmental potential."
In particular, the World Cup has given the ITU the impetus to organise events outside the triathlon stronghold of Europe. Five of the eight WCS events in the 2013 circuit will be held in Europe, with the Grand Final to be run over the 2012 Olympic Games course in central London. By contrast, seven of this year's World Cup events are held outside Europe, at venues in Australia, Japan, Canada, Mexico, South Korea and Colombia.
Casado is committed to the ITU's headquarters in Lausanne, but says that offices will also be maintained in Madrid, where she has a base through the Spanish triathlon federation headquarters, and in Vancouver, Canada, the long-time headquarters of the federation during McDonald's presidency.
The Vancouver office is the base for Loreen Barnett, who was re-elected to a new four-year term as the ITU's secretary general last autumn, and who also acts as executive director of the federation until her forthcoming retirement from the position at the end of this year.
Casado intends to appoint two executives to take over from Barnett, with one heading up the administrative department and the other focusing on the sport itself.