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Triathlon is one of the sports that are gaining massive popularity in the global arena. According to Nohr (2009, p. 54), triathlon is a three-stage competition involving three disciplines that have to be completed sequentially. Although there are variations in the type of the three disciplines involved in such a competition, the most popular one has swimming, cycling and running as the disciplines done in that sequence. This endurance discipline became part of the Olympic sports in the year 2000 and it has been attracting an increasing number of competitors. While this sport becomes popular in the international arena, there is a concern about the risks associated with it.
According to Moriarty, Holman, and Forsyth (2001, p. 87), triathlon is a game that is highly demanding in terms of energy. It also requires skills, especially when it comes to the swimming aspect of it. People have died in the past while competing in this game. Almost all the cases of deaths were reported at the swimming stage. The two stages of cycling and running also pose serious threats. At the cycling stage, one can fall off the bicycle leading to various degrees of injury. It is always in the interest of the organisers to ensure that all the competitors complete such races without accidents or incidents. However, the possibility of such accidents is not something that can be ignored. It is for this reason that it becomes necessary to have proper risk management structure in such events to arrest the accidents and incidents. This paper will look at ways through which International Triathlon Union can develop an effective risk management structure during the international events.
The triathlon historians are still contentious on the issue about the exact date when triathlon as a sport begun. The place of origin of this sport is also not very clear. According to Youngberg (2011, p. 90), triathlon must have begun in France in the early 1920s. The sport involved running, canoeing, and cycling. During this time, it was not properly organised. The event was first reported in the French magazines in 1902. However, the sports kept changing due to various environmental changes. As time went by, the canoeing was replaced by swimming as a better and more challenging sport. From the start, the organisers wanted a sport that needed more endurance in order to achieve success. Canoeing was also becoming more prone to iceberg accidents, making it undesirable.
According to Wu and Zhou (2011, p. 73), cycling and running are the easier parts of the sport, both for the organisers and athletes. However, coming with a clear concept of swimming was not very easy. Most of the concepts developed were either too risky for the athletes or undesirable for the relevant stakeholders. In fact, Hershon (1994, p. 112) says that in the late 1940s and 1950s, the sport was almost forgotten, especially due to the fatalities that were involved.
The San Diego Triathlon Tournament which took place in September 1974 at Mission Bay is largely considered to have transformed the modern-day triathlon. This was the first time this event was held in the United States. Directed by Don Shanahan and Jack Johnston, the event featured 46 participants and was considered a huge success. The main events included swimming, cycling, and riding in that pattern. The event was organised at the beach because there was a general agreement that swimming in the beach was more thrilling than at the channels. The popularity of the sport grew in Europe and American continents in equal measures. Inasmuch as the variation still existed about the distance to be covered in each event across the world, there was a general agreement that the three activities had to be swimming/cycling/running in that order.
After lobbying for several years, triathlon was finally introduced in the Olympic Games in the year 2000. The harmonised coverage in each of the three disciplines at the Olympics was swim: 1,500 m, bike: 40 km, run: 10 km. Its popularity still continues to grow across the global community. According to Charnley (2011, p. 52), as triathlon struggled to change from one form to another, one factor that remained very worrying was the number of casualties recorded. People were dying during the sport while other sustained serious injuries. The reorganisation has helped address this problem, but this does not mean such cases are completely eliminated.
Triathlon as a sport has become very popular, but the risks associated with it are causing worries among the stakeholders. In order to develop an appropriate risk management strategy, it is necessary to use EGSOP model to analyse the environmental, governance, strategy, organisation and performance issues during such events. The environment in which this sport is organised is unique from other sports. According to Mora (1999, p. 83), triathlon events are always held in the beaches.
This environment is perfect because it combines sports and leisure. However, some risks exist that put the lives of the athletes in danger. Once the athletes start the 1500 meter swim it may not be easy to determine if one is experiencing difficulties, especially if it is at the advanced stages. As shown in the appendix, the number of people who drown during this stage is worrying. In some cases the relevant officers may not realise that someone is struggling and needs help. The environment in which cycling and running take place does not pose serious challenges as those posed in the water.
However, cyclists can easily knock off one another leading to serious injuries, more so when they fall on the bicycles. The high temperatures at the beach, especially during the summers, are also another issue that has raised concerns among the organisers. In order to address the issues associated with the environment, the organisers will need to have a rescue at all the stages, specifically in the water. The rescuers should be able to monitor the progress made by the athletes while at the see with the aim of detecting any form of discomfort. If it is established that an athlete needs help, it should be rendered as soon as possible. Along the cycling tracks, there should be first aid points to address issues such as accidents. The athletes must be informed that help is always near whenever they need it. There should be clearly defined approaches that can be used by the athletes when they are in need of help. The governance of triathlon is under the International Triathlon Union. There are national and regional unions that manage such events at the regional levels.
The governance is another issue that is fundamental when defining risk management strategies. There should be a clear governance structure at every event. The management body should be clear on who needs to address what task during these events. The governing body should institute a unit that is responsible for risk management. This body will involve in developing measures that will be used to address all the risk factors at the three stages of a triathlon event. This unit should be adequately financed in order to perform its functions adequately.
The strategy to be used in managing these risks is another very important aspect of this plan. Having the right equipment and qualified personnel is just one aspect of the strategy. The other aspect is defining how the equipment and personnel will be assigned to the field, and the coordination that will be needed to get the desired results. The team should have three semi-command points which will be at the swimming, cycling, and the running stages. These semi-command points will have a central point of command where all the activities will be coordinated.
The organisation of the event should be elaborate and must involve all the relevant stakeholders. According to Steinberg and Heyborne (2011, p. 94), triathlon is one of the sports where the athletes face numerous risks. In order to manage these risks, there must be elaborate plans on how various stakeholders will be involved in the entire process. Doctors are needed to help in offering medication to those who are involved in accidents during the competition process. In terms of performance, the management should make an effort to ensure that success is based on, among other things, the ability to complete the event with the fewest number of accidents and incidents possible. To the athletes, their success will be based on who comes first and who sets new records. However, the performance on the side of the organisers should be on the safety and security of all the participants, and the availability of the infrastructure needed by the relevant stakeholders in making the event successful.
According to Mallett (2009, p. 55), accidents during triathlon events are still reported despite the effort made by the stakeholders in addressing the issue. A number of problems have been identified during such events that act against the effort to manage these risks. One problem that has widely been mentioned is the fact that some athletes participate in these events while they are sick. A common health problem that has been blamed for some of the recorded deaths during competition is heart problem. Triathlon is an endurance sport, and it requires healthy athletes. Some of the athletes come knowing that they are sick, but hoping that they can manage the tiring process. The organisers have no capacity to detect heart problems when the athletes present themselves for the event. It wholly relies on their confession. If they lie about their condition of health, then they will be allowed to participate, a move that puts them at a serious risk, especially during the swimming stage.
Friel (2002, p. 143) says that financing has also been an issue among the triathlon organisers. Unlike sports, such as football, that have a large following; triathlon is yet to attract a large crowd of viewers. This makes it difficult to secure contract with some of the best sponsors that can help in taking the sport to the next level. Inability to combat natural forces during the events has also been mentioned as another issue of concern.
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Triathlon is making impressive progress towards being one of the major sporting events in the world. The sport has become popular in Europe and American continents. It is making inroads to the Asia-Pacific and parts of Africa. However, Ralston and Kilgallon (2011, p. 82) observes that unless the associated risks are adequately addressed, it will take a long time before it can command a large following. The International Triathlon Union, and all its affiliates all over the world, should come up with strategies that will help eliminate the risks discussed above. Problems such as drowning of an athlete, serious damage to the heart or any other body organ because of overstretching and straining, and such related cases should be eliminated through well-structured systems. Although accidents along the trucks may not be avoided, there must be systems that can help mitigate such issues.
Based on the issues identified above, it will be necessary for the following stakeholders to take various measures in managing the associated risks during triathlon events.
- The organisers should ensure that all the relevant infrastructure are put in place to help in the smooth running of the event
- The organisers should take the athletes through counselling and inform them of the dangers of participating while one is sick
- The organisers should ensure that medical officers, equipped with the necessary materials, are part of such events
- The participants must be responsible enough to avoid participating if they feel that they have medical problems
- The participants should raise alarm whenever they feel any form of discomfort, especially when swimming
- All other stakeholders should be involved in any other little activity that will enhance safety of all the participants and success of the events.
It is clear from the analysis that triathlon is an emerging sport that has a bright future. However, the risks associated with the sport pose serious threats that may have negative impacts to the positive progress that have been made. The statistics of deaths of the participants must be adequately addressed in order to achieve the vision of the governing body. To achieve this, the organisers, the participating athletes, and all other stakeholders must play their specific roles to ensure that the desired success is achieved.
List of References
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A Triathlon Athlete Struggles to Breath Soon After Completing the Race.