The Simon Whitfield era in triathlon is coming to an end.
But the real Simon may have met the next Simon on Tuesday. Only time will tell.
It is hoped those Whitfieldian ripples from the past will wash over the future as the stature of the two-time Olympic medallist from Victoria will be of high importance in promoting the Tri This national talent identification program.
The program is two-pronged, with one aspect of it to introduce the sport to young people; the other will attempt to entice strong swimmers, runners or cyclists to switch to triathlon.
"It typically takes nearly one decade to develop a youngster at the grassroots level into an elite triath-lete," said the 37-year-old Whitfield, who helped launch the program at a Toronto elementary school.
"It is a long journey with many potential roadblocks.
It is our goal through Tri This to nurture dedicated athletes who already have a strong head start in one or two of the three disciplines of our unique sport to increase the breadth and depth of our national program."
Olympians Kyle Jones and Brent McMahon of Victoria, who joined Whitfield to comprise the Canadian men's Olympic team at London 2012, said the program could prove valuable.
"We came up in the generation in which triathlon was not established across Canada and carried it through four Olympic cycles [since Whitfield won the first-ever men's gold medal in the sport at Sydney 2000]," said the 28-yearold Jones, who is committed through to Rio 2016.
"There's a bit of a void now and we don't have the depth we had in the past.
We definitely need to get more kids involved and this program will help kick-start that."
Two-time Olympian McMahon said he saw it as an "investment in children."
"This is definitely a great initiative. It's taken a long time to put this together and it's great to see it get off the ground," added the 32-year-old.
While there are several umbrella organizations that administer sport nationally, it is up to each individual federation to assure the health and future of its own sport. With federal funding now tied to international medals won, the scramble among Canadian sports to develop top talent has become more intense.
"The more we expose people to the sport, the better the nation's chances are at finding, fostering and developing Canada's next Olympic medallists," said Triathlon Canada CEO Alan Trivett, in a statement.
"Similar recruitment initiatives are already underway in other countries. It is proof these recruitment initiatives work, and Canada cannot stand still if we want to remain a medal-contending country in the sport internationally."
Whitfield won Olympic gold at Sydney 2000, Olympic silver at Beijing 2008 and Commonwealth Games gold at Manchester 2002. He was at the Toronto event with his two young daughters.
"Simon and his two daughters were the hit of the press conference for our Tri This talent ID program. No place in Canada has had a better history of finding swimmers who have transitioned into triathlon than Victoria," said Barrie Shepley, a noted Canadian triathlon coach, manager and broadcaster.
"Our goal is to find two or three Simon's and Paula's [Canadian Olympian Paula Findlay] who have a swim or run, or optimally both, backgrounds and who want to make triathlon their new Olympic careers."
Anyone interested in the program can go to triathloncanada.com. firstname.lastname@example.org
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