Short-Course Athletes Will Dominate the Long-Course World

The Ironman 70.3 World Championships this last weekend was incredible, fascinating and exciting to see the progression of the sport.


The top-four male finishers and majority of top-10 women are all previous Olympians, specializing in shorter distance racing.

The more athletes that come from short-course racing and the Olympic side of the sport, the more we will see of this.

It’s very apparent that the ITU short-course athletes will dominate the long-course world.

Without acquiring valuable skills in short-course racing, the long-course pros coming from different backgrounds will rarely be able to hang or podium at a world championship event.

There will always be outliers like Lionel Sanders and Lucy Charles.

But as this sport develops more and more Olympians, they will take over the “pointy” side of Ironman, at both the half and full distances.

What’s great to see is the humility of Lionel after losing, causing him to go back to the basics to build those fundamental skills. He does so well because he has one of the strongest engines the sport has ever seen. But he will always have to rely on his sheer "grittiness" and strength.

As these young short-course athletes start funneling into Ironman, outliers like Lucy and Lionel will have a very hard time even getting on the podium. The sport is changing and changing fast. The Ironman distance is sexy and appealing to everyone. However, if an athlete really wants to succeed long term, it's necessary to to go back to the basics, get faster, race shorter and nail the fundamentals. Ironically, I have seen the same thing from the coaching world.

The best Ironman (Long-Course) coaches come from a short-course coaching background focused on youth, juniors and ITU.

Unfortunately, many coaches now are doing an Ironman and going straight into coaching Ironman athletes with zero fundamental knowledge of the sport.

Learning the fundamentals of the sport first, including how to get an athlete faster, and how to peak, executing and expressing their fitness when it matters, are all vital components of effective coaching.

Many coaches often get by in the long course world half the time by simply helping the athlete get the nutrition right, which decreases time “lost” (as opposed to time or speed “gained”), and this is a very small part of coaching a person to overall athletic success. Without the fundamental knowledge and experience gained in short-course racing, a coach may call himself/herself “a coach” by throwing volume here and there into swim, bike, run—day after day—and hope that the general fitness built will pay off.

I have A LOT to learn still and don't consider myself an expert in anything.

But I am grateful to have been surrounded by so many incredible coaches and opportunities with USAT, here locally who I learn from daily, and other coaches around the world who have made a great impact on me, my beliefs, and the way I coach.

Originally posted on Instagram.

Wesley Johnson