Q&A: One of the judges for the Global Triathlon Awards
We try to answer: What the heck are the GTAs?
With the first-ever Global Triathlon Awards coming up, we wanted to learn a little bit more about who’s behind them, what they are, and what were the criteria for the different awards. (Some eyebrows were raised at the short list finalists that included Chelsea Sodaro in the best rookie category and a wide mix of products across the best run, swim, and bike tech categories.)
We asked the intrepid Tim Heming to look into it, and he’s bringing us this Q&A with one of the five judges for the star-studded event.
You can see the full list of finalists and details about the red (blue?) carpet gala and ceremony here.
We’re briefly opening up this Q&A to everyone the awards. If you want interesting Q&As or fun indepth newsletters every Sunday, become a paid subscriber.
We typically have to wait until deep into the year to honor the good and great of triathlon. But not so for 2023 because on Friday, Jan. 20 (yes, just a couple of days away), the inaugural Global Triathlon Awards, or the GTAs—as they may or may not become known—are taking place at the Hyatt Regency Palais de la Méditerranée on the Promenade des Anglais in the hottest new old location in triathlon: Nice, France.
If you haven’t heard of the GTAs before, you’re probably not alone. They’ve been on a lowkey, slow burn since the end of the tri season, after popping up with callouts for public nominations and offering a gilded opportunity to mix with the superstars of tri. Now fast approaching, the event will hand out awards in 11 categories with a celebrity MC, entertainment, and a show—à la the Oscars or the BAFTAs. The event will be streamed live.
But before you watch, read on. To try and find out a little more about what’s in store, we caught up with California-based Jordan Blanco, one of the five-strong judging panel. Jordan is a consultant to brands, companies, and athletes within the triathlon industry, as well as being a high-level amateur competitor for more than two decades. And she tried to tell us a little bit about what exactly the GTAs are, and why we need them.
Let’s start with: What are the GTAs all about and why have they popped up?
The first I knew about the awards was when I was invited to be a judge. They are about celebrating an industry that doesn’t necessarily come together, ever. It’s an opportunity to bring together athletes, brands, and contributors to celebrate successes and the future of the sport and where we want to go.
The headline awards are around the athletes, but it’s a chance to thank and celebrate people who are doing behind-the-scenes work, too.
Who is behind it and why?
It’s being spearheaded by Super League Triathlon, but they’ve onboarded other event organizers and participants in the industry. They’ve outsourced the event organization to a third-party production company, who have also handled the judging process and interactions and it’s all been plain sailing so far.
I was invited by Michael d’Hulst, the CEO and co-founder of Super League. Taylor Spivey [an athlete I work with] raced on the Super League circuit the past few seasons, so I’ve gotten to know Michael at events.
I love that series and have been a cheerleader for it and, while the invitation came out of the blue, it was a nice surprise and I was happy to jump onboard.
How are the winners decided?
The public were invited to put forth nominations and the judges then awarded points against a criteria that reduced the list to five in each category. We then had a long conference call, which took the best part of half-a-day and was very much the judging part of the process.
The judges all have different experiences of triathlon and the sports industry. It was a candid conversation. There were certainly disagreements but it was cordial. We all bring strong opinions and none of us were shy in sharing what we think. We all have our biases, and at the end of the day there is no right answer, but it’s about coming to an agreement.
I’m sure a lot of people will disagree with us, but that’s OK. Hopefully, we’ll celebrate all the athletes and companies who are nominated.
Are the best male/female/rookie awards going to be a bit tricky with the GTAs having no distinction between short- and long-distance racers?
We tried to go through the body of work for each athlete and discuss the pros and cons, and we got no pressure from Super League or any other race organizer to lean in one direction or another.
There were names not on the list who should have been nominated. For example, Leo Bergere wasn’t nominated by anyone, so as judges we brought up additional names.
Maybe that’s something we should think about for future iterations of the awards too, to make sure we have the complete list of those who should be up for consideration.
Does the sport really need a global awards?
I would argue that now more than ever we need a global awards. Our industry is pretty spread out. We’re looking at a split Ironman World Championship where there won’t be an opportunity for male and female athletes to come together to celebrate their wins.
You also don’t have a Georgia Taylor-Brown coming into contact with a Chelsea Sodaro, so bringing those athletes together and sharing their success presents a great opportunity.
Formula One had its big event just before Christmas [the FIA Prize Giving], where they handed out the drivers’ and constructors’ awards for the year. It would be amazing to hand out the championship prizes at an awards like this, bringing together all the different aspects of the sport, Super League, World Triathlon, PTO, and hopefully down the road, Ironman.
Do you know why Ironman isn't involved this year?
It’s a start-up year and my understanding is that they were approached and it was just too tight a timeframe to get involved given other priorities they had in-house. It wasn’t a ‘No, we never want to be involved,’ but hopefully they’ll come onboard in the future.
I think Andrew Messick is a little disappointed that more women haven’t come out and celebrated the fact they have their own day in Kona. Part of it is that for them to do that it would be thumbing their nose at the men, so I think there is some diplomacy happening.
But if Ironman could get onboard with the GTAs we could make sure we celebrate men and women together. I think that would be a way to bring some unity and put Ironman back on the front foot.
Finally, what are you most looking forward to about the event?
I’m excited to put on my gladrags and head down the triathlon red carpet, or blue carpet! It will be great to see the industry come together and experience the event. It’s a first-year event so I don’t have any expectations, but my understanding is that it’s going to be a lot of fun.
Quick GTA facts:
The Global Triathlon Awards looks to represent the whole triathlon industry. It takes place on Friday, Jan. 20 in Nice, France.
There are 11 awards including best male athlete, best female athlete, and best rookie, alongside five product categories, an outstanding contributor award, and two lifetime awards.
The shortlist for the female triathlete of the year is: Flora Duffy, Ashleigh Gentle, Georgia Taylor-Brown, Lucy Charles-Barclay, and Chelsea Sodaro.
The shortlist for the male triathlete of the year is: Hayden Wilde, Gustav Iden, Kristian Blummenfelt, Alex Yee, and Matthew Hauser.
The shortlist for the rookie triathlete of the year is: Katie Crowhurst, Sam Laidlow, Connor Bentley, Chelsea Sodaro and Kenji Nener.
There are no separate awards for paratriathletes, with the criteria stating they can be nominated for the existing awards. Katie Crowhurst, a visually impaired triathlete who won Commonwealth Games gold is nominated for rookie triathlete of the year.
The judges are Jordan Blanco, Stephane Diagana, Emma-Kate Lidbury, Tim Don and Chelsea Burns.
Event hosts are Super League commentator Will McCloy and former marathon world record holder Paula Radcliffe.
Thanks for chatting with me... I'm excited for the event this weekend!
Every single time I read your writing, I'm glad I read it, if for no other reason than the experience of reading it. Just excellent.