Matt Sharpe qualified for the Super Triathlon League and will compete in 2018. The new league gains exposure for the sport and is a good way to earn money while also training for Olympic ranking events. Twitter

Matt Sharpe qualified for the Super Triathlon League and will compete in 2018. The new league gains exposure for the sport and is a good way to earn money while also training for Olympic ranking events. Twitter

Olympic path takes new directions for Saanich’s Matt Sharpe

Sharpe wins ITU mixed relay medal with Canadian teammates

The world stage for pro triathletes is changing but the quest to represent Canada at the 2020 Olympic Games remains the goal for Saanich’s Matt Sharpe.

The 27-year-old celebrates his birthday on Oct. 21 and is currently Canada’s second-ranked male among International Triathlon Union athletes at 36th overall.

Rankings, of course, can be highly misleading in the injurious and unpredictable world of triathlon.

Sharpe is coming off a 14th overall placing at last weekend’s CAMTRI sprint men’s elite race (750-metre swim, 20km bike and 5km run) in Sarasota, FLA. More importantly, Sharpe was the anchor as he helped win a silver medal in the CAMTRI mixed relay American Championships at Sarasota with Canadians Joanna Brown, Desirae Ridenour and Tyler Mislawchuk.

The foursome bested many of the top triathletes to post a second-place sprint time of 1:07:45 and are looking promising in the new event that has been added to the 2020 Games.

“It was a stellar effort from the entire team today,” Sharpe told Triathlon Canada. “Everybody executed exactly what they needed to do, and we were incredibly close to taking the win.”

In August, Sharpe had another big result, finishing 17th overall at the year’s biggest race, the Grand Final held in Australia’s Gold Coast.

READ MORE: Saanich triathlete Sharpe back on track with low gravity treadmill

This weekend is another ITU World Cup race, Oct. 21 in Salinas, Ecuador.

But ITU and the Olympics aren’t the only groups mixing up the sport of triathlon.

Sharpe is currently ranked 11th overall in the highly competitive new Super League Triathlon, a made-for-television (well, online television) professional league that launched in 2016 and is looking to sell the sport to a bigger audience. Earlier this year the same Canadian quartet of Brown, Mislawchuk, Ridenour and Sharpe all “qualified” to earn contracts to race in the four-event Super League (Penticton was scheduled to host it in August but was cancelled due to smoke.)

With their contract, the foursome are flown to each event and put up in a hotel. Sharpe finished 11th in points at the first event of the season, two weeks ago in Jersey, England.

The series continues next in Malta, Oct. 27-28, then Mallorca, Nov. 3-4, and finishes after a winter break in Singapore, Feb. 23-24.

What makes the Super League Triathlon unique is that it mixes the formats into three shorter triathlons, swim/bike/run, run/bike/swim, then bike/swim/run.

Winners get a piece of the purse. The trick is finishing the race. If you drop more than 90 seconds back of the pack, you’re eliminated.

“It’s hard, you’re on the gas from the start,” Sharpe said. And that’s against a field that features most of the top sprint and standard (1.5km swim, 40km bike, 10km run) triathletes in the world.

“You can keep a decent level of fitness throughout the year,” Sharpe said. “I’ve been racing since February and will keep racing until November, so I’m not in peak fitness, but I want to maintain it.”

The “peak” that Sharped aimed for was indeed the Gold Coast, where he was 17th.

After Mallorca, Sharpe will be done for the season.

“With Super League, you want to be in that final six, otherwise they actually cut you during the race, so the goal is to complete that race,” Sharpe said. “It’s a good opportunity to race and make money. But the Olympics are what I’m focused on.”

reporter@saanichnews.com