Super League Triathlon founder chats

Published
17/03/2017

Super League Triathlon is set to pit the best of the best against each other and inspire a new generation to take up triathlon with its inaugural event on Hamilton Island happening from today 17 March through to 19 March.

Super League Triathlon was co-founded by Chris McCormack, Michael D’Hulst and Leonid Boguslavsky, three successful businessmen and passionate triathletes brought together by a common desire to break new ground in the sport of triathlon.

Will McCloy interviews co-founders Leonid Boguslavsky, Michael D'Hulst, and Chris McCormack
Credit: Clint Barter

Growing up competing in short distance racing of various formats, including surf lifesaving, on the beaches of Australia, Chris McCormack always wanted a professional racing series to highlight to millions around the world the sport that gave him his life and career.

“As a former athlete I was constantly frustrated with the events and the brands being the pillar and these athletes being a side note,” said McCormack, whose 20-year professional career produced four world titles and countless race wins. A self-confessed triathlon “geek”, McCormack is an ardent student and observer of the sport whose command of factoids about past and present triathletes can rival a baseball card collector’s mastery of MLB.

“I think when you look at the big sports around the world -- football, UFC -- it’s athlete first. You know, creating characters, creating stars, using the media to showcase the athletic abilities of the best in that sport. And that trickles down to support the sport. So I wanted to reverse how triathlon is currently done.”

McCormack is looking forward to the racing. “Spills, racing, competitiveness, aggression, you’re gonna see everything. People who know triathlon have never seen anything like this before.”

As a latecomer to the sport with an outsider perspective on building triathlon events from the ground up, D’Hulst envisioned a better way of going about the sport. He believes Super League Triathlon has the potential to go the way of UFC and Formula 1 racing as a viscerally engaging and life-inspiring sport for spectators as well as participants.

He said, “We take this sport of triathlon which is very much a mass participation model and add a whole new business model to it which is the spectator-friendliness of sports entertainment. We believe that triathlon as a sport now is ready to do that.”

D’Hulst revealed that pain and suffering were definitely part of the consideration when selecting Hamilton Island as the inaugural race venue. He said, “Pain defines the ultimate athlete. Who’s able to take it, and who’s able to strategize. It’s not just about going flat out and seeing where I’ll end up. You have to be smart about this. How do I play my cards in the different rounds in specific events. It’s not only the fittest athlete, it’s also the athlete who takes the risk, who is able to deliver on that risk, and who is smart enough to strategize around it.”

Establishing Super League Triathlon as a new model for triathlon will reshape the landscape of the sport and allow it to break new ground worldwide -- this is what Leonid Boguslavsky desires as his legacy.

A former professor with a Ph.D. in computer science, Boguslavsky also served as a senior partner at PricewaterhouseCoopers and as investor became one of the most important players in booming IT and Internet scene. He fell in love with the sport of triathlon later in his life when a friend gifted him a copy of McCormack’s autobiography, “I’m Here to Win” in 2013. Boguslavsky was inspired to do his first triathlon and was hooked. Never being trained in sport before, he got his first age group podium in 8 months and in one and a half years from the first day of training he qualified for the Ironman World Championship in Kona. Then he met McCormack in person.

“I met Chris at an Endurance conference; we started talking about what can be new with triathlon. I was dreaming to create a new format, and we just jumped on this idea. What are the key factors to make it successful? Three things: signing up the top athletes in the world, making it awesome from a TV prospective, and creating a big prize fund,” Boguslavsky said.

Super League Triathlon’s closed-league championship concept elevates triathlon to the level of mainstream professional sport, while the roll-out of age-group participation in future races stays true to triathlon’s roots and values while inspiring new generations to take up the sport.

Boguslavsky expounded on this further, saying, “The key concept which we are developing is ‘league’. As a league there will be athletes who are climbing to the higher league from a lower one.”

All three men share the same dream of bringing triathlon to a wider audience and sharing what is special about the sport with the world. McCormack said, “Everyone’s always talking about triathlon as the fastest-growing sport in the world; there’s more people now participating in triathlon than ever before. We haven’t seen that growth into the media and that growth on television, so with Super League Triathlon it’s that repackaging, rebranding of the sport but staying true to the values of the sport is what’s really, really exciting.”

He concluded, “In ten years I’d love to see people talking about athletes like Alistair Brownlee or say young Jake Birtwhistle in the same way as we’re talking about Roger Federer.”

Super League Hamilton Island will be broadcast live on www.superleaguetriathlon.com on 17-19 March 2017 from 1700 AEST.