THREE-TIME Olympian Tim Don believes the International Olympic Committee will make a game-changing ruling that will change the face of triathlon.
Don, 34, thinks commercial and organisational pressures will mean that by the time the triathletes line up in Rio de Janeiro in 2016 the individual race will be competed over a SPRINT course – half the distance of the current format.
As Don prepares to end his short course International Triathlon Union career, his parting prediction would signal the biggest shake-up in the sport since the introduction of draft-legal racing.
He also believes the competing countries would have their maximum allocation cut from three to two, which would persuade domestic governing bodies do what he and Will Clarke couldn’t – give domestiques a wide berth.
“I think Rio will be a Sprint distance race and a mixed team relay,” he exclusively told 220. “Instead of the top six countries having three athletes and the next six two and so on, I think it will be two across the board with the males and females joining forces for the relay.
“I think the International Olympic Committee will ask how you can have triathletes racing an Olympic distance race over two hours and a leg of the team sprint over 20 minutes.
“Look at the ITU World Series. Hamburg was a sprint, Stockholm was a sprint. There are already world championship sprint for age-group athletes.
“It's an easier sell for TV. If you compact it to 55 minutes for the men, plus adverts and presentations afterwards, it's one hour, done.”
It would be a radical move for the sport, but while the World Series is retaining a similar structure for 2013 – an eight-race season including just one individual Sprint in Hamburg – the ITU concede they do not call the shots over Brazil.
The IOC will meet next September in Buenos Aires to decide whether an additional set of triathlon medal will be on offer and if the team sprint does get a green light, its format could prove key to the individual event.
If Don’s foresight does prove correct the focus of the sport could be reshaped, almost overnight.
If the key focus becomes a 750m swim, 20km bike and 5km run, would a new breed of younger, faster triathletes seize the chance to toe the line in Rio?
Would the current generation of established ITU stars move on and give 5150 and 70.3 races new-found strength?
What now for domestiques? Would Jonny be the dominant Brownlee? What would (the now old) Olympic distance even be called?
On thing is certain, a lot of established triathlon professionals, not to mention age groupers, will be rapidly re-evaluating their future race schedules.
However, if the status quo is retained for the Olympic distance of a 1.5km swim, 40km bike and 10km run, Don is adamant the BTF will not change the selection blueprint.
“It will be: 'Carry on what we're doing,'” he says. “Support Ali, Jonny and Helen [Jenkins] to the maximum.
“If a young junior comes through then fantastic but the people competing at the moment are not going to get medals so although they'll be supported to a degree, when the time comes they will pick domestiques again.
“The British Olympic Association and UK Sport will say: 'But it's worked. You've got medals, Why are you changing and supporting individuals? Why aren't you supporting more domestiques.
“It's frustrating and disappointing but it's a business to the Federation.”