Though likely a first day fluke, we managed to reorient ourselves to the local time and woke up at a normal Swedish hour. After enjoying one of the more beautiful breakfast buffets I have encountered in a hotel, we made our way to Motala. While there are certainly conveniences of staying within walking distance of the race site, our overnight location in Linkoping, 40 minutes away from Motala has proven exceptionally calm and offered opportunity to take in the Swedish countryside this morning rather than be immersed only in the hubbub of the race site.
In a random twist of poor planning turned fortunate, I missed the ship date for Team USA’s bike handlers but was able to connect with a local triathlete in Motala to borrow a bike (even fancier than my own!) and ultimately saved on cost and stress. While I was at the bike shop this morning I encountered a Canadian athlete whose bike was lost by the airline, leaving her in dire straits with only hours before bikes must be checked into transition – I am confident the shop owner will do all that she can to help, but can imagine this to be a most stressful experience for the competitor who expected the familiarity of her gear on race day.
The organization of this race is, not surprisingly, world-class with easy access to packet pick-up, transition and course previews. We had opportunity to view start and finish, the latter of which will be a most welcome sight tomorrow afternoon! The bay is beautiful though due to an unseasonably cold spring, has not warmed as was expected. Due to the low temperatures, the swim has been shortened from 4000m to 1500m to prevent athlete injury from prolonged exposure. While I was gearing up for the distance challenge, I appreciate that the officials are mindful of the bigger picture and can only imagine how numb one’s hands and feet might be after an hour or more in 55 degree water and will take my first opportunity to roll with the tide on race day!
Opening ceremonies have concluded and 35 nations are represented here at the International Triathlon Union Long Distance World Championships. For the elites, a $90,000 prize purse (divided among the top 15 men and women – equal between genders!) is up for grabs. For the age groupers, a world title among peers can be claimed. For all athletes, tomorrow brings unique opportunity for national representation and international unification. We will toe the line distinguished by the colors of our home nation but amalgamated by focus and task. Miles (or kilometers as it were) need no translation. Our training sessions may be diverse in style, terrain, climate and weather across the globe but the physical effort is the same worldwide.
I am honored to have the opportunity to be part of an event that brings nations together. Through the medium of triathlon, we have the ability to see commonality with our neighbors around the globe, opening dialogue to learn from one another in the context of sport. Through the rotating location each year, we are exposed to various cultures and host nations are given opportunity to showcase the best they have to offer – last year China, now Sweden and next year the USA, in Oklahoma City. I hope we can demonstrate hospitality with as much vigor as the Swedes have shown this year and embrace athletes from around the globe, especially from those delegations represented in small numbers. Team USA has a significant presence and strong support, sharing the responsibility of representation among many. We also have ample opportunity for racing with clubs and venues in high numbers all across the US. For other countries, one or two athletes carry the flag of their nation and are blazing new trails nationally for triathlon. These athletes have a special task to represent their nation in sport and their sport to a nation, increasing awareness of the three disciplines as they are known and loved all across the world.
And so opening day comes to a close and I must now pack my bags for the morning, the final acts of preparation for this day, much anticipated for more than a year. Filled with the kinship of my fellow delegates from Team USA, respect for the competitors from the other 34 nations and gratitude to all who have contributed to the immeasurable logistics that make this event possible. May we all make the most of each opportunity to represent our nation with the best of ourselves and recognize connection of humanity across borders born within but transcendent of sport.
Dreaming of this view tomorrow: