What it Means to Switch Federations
"You've got those letters mixed up!" My family and friends have been reminding me of it since day one... but why was I racing for the U.S. and what does it mean to switch the country code on my kit?...Let me explain.
As with any sport, racing triathlon at any level requires membership. Given my first year of triathlon took place in 2012 at the start of my fourth year living in the U.S, it was necessary for me to have a membership with USA triathlon in order to race their races and be covered by insurance.
It is important to note there are different types of triathlon memberships. This is done to categorise athletes into different waves and races. In order to become a professional triathlete you must first begin racing in age group races and qualify for an elite license by achieving results that fulfill certain criteria. Only after you obtain an elite license are you able to race in pro races or in the professional waves at events. Every country's federation has different criteria to qualify for an elite license.
In the summer of 2013 I set myself the goal of a strong finish at nationals with the hopes of qualifying for team USA and went digging through the rule book. In what is a very relaxed rule for the USAT, it is stated that you are deemed a resident of the USA and are eligible to qualify for team USA if you have been living in the country 3 years or longer. I figured I ticked that box and lined up at the start in Milwaukee. On the second day of racing I found myself on the top step of the podium over the sprint distance. In all honesty, given I had a USAT membership and was listed as residing in South Dakota no one blinked at the fact an Aussie was named national champion.
Later in 2013 I raced in Miami and met the criteria of earning a USA triathlon elite license. At this point I had a choice, I could try and convince Triathlon Australia to give me an elite license and pay the increased fee to include insurance overseas or I could get a guaranteed elite license in the US. In the end I was granted an elite license by triathlon Australia but the hassle and cost to get it done coupled with the fact I didn't know how long I'd remain in the U.S meant I went with the easy option. As was the case with nationals, no one bat an eyelid that an Aussie was now racing for the U.S.
Given I now had a license with USA triathlon, anytime I raced an international race I was given my entry by the USA and was representing them. In this case, it is compulsory to wear the country code of the country you are representing.
After injuring my foot in France, I made the decision to move back to Australia and set up camp here. Obviously, I was no longer a U.S resident and this was the main reason for the switch of federations. The timing also couldn't have been better. If an athlete chooses to switch federations and represent another country in international racing, they are required to spend a year where they don't really represent anyone but instead represent the ITU (international triathlon union). Given my injury forced me to withdraw from all my international races in 2015, my year of racing for the ITU was taken without ever stepping foot in a race.
So what now....? Once an ITU federation change is made, it is for life. You are only allowed to switch once and I have taken mine to race for Australia. In moving forward not much changes other than the country I am representing and who is granting me my race entries. This plays no impact on where I'm required to live and race but merely the country I am representing when I do race. You will notice me wearing the green and gold of Australia in international ITU races and all my entries into these races will be granted by Triathlon Australia. It also means I am eligible to race in all the biggest races in the world given I am an Australian citizen which was not the case in the U.S. In non ITU races I will be listed as representing Australia, but the kit doesn't matter. Keep this in mind if you see me in one of my USA kits this year.. It is likely just a decision to mix up my race kit to keep the green and gold one fresh and lasting as long as possible!
Hopefully that clarifies my quite interesting situation over the last few years. If you have spent the last couple of minutes thinking what the heck is James talking about? Feel free to have a chat with me. If there is anything I can tell you about triathletes, it's that they love talking about triathlon!