Race Diaries 2023 #7: Paris Test Event

Marti Kropko at the Olympic Test Event

The Journey to Paris

Paris is already my favorite city, so naturally, the location itself was a reason for me to anticipate this race. The fact that it was the test event for the 2024 Paris Olympics provided even greater motivation for me. About a month before, it was revealed that I would be participating in the mixed relay. In the individual race, I held onto hope until the last moment, hoping I might make the start list there too. It was a close call, and I ended up being 2nd or 3rd on the waiting list, but ultimately I didn’t make it. Considering I’ve only been accumulating points for a year, this was to be expected.

Two weeks before the race, news came out that the open water swimming event was canceled for long-distance swimmers due to the Seine River being polluted after heavy rain. While this wasn’t encouraging, since the weather improved later on, I hoped there wouldn’t be an issue with the swim.

After Hamburg, I prepared at high altitude in St. Moritz, then headed to Yeongdo, South Korea for a World Cup event. The race went decently, although my tactics again didn’t work in my favor. Nevertheless, it was my first time finishing in the top 20 at a World Cup event as the youngest competitor. This couldn’t happen without the support of MOL Új-Európa Alapítvány.

After Yeongdo, I returned to St. Moritz, where I continued training with the Swiss national team under the guidance of Nico Montavon. The high-altitude training opportunity was provided by the Vikings Foundation.

Chase group of 4

Paris, you never disappoint

Finally, the long-awaited day arrived when I got to Paris. I can never get used to the sight of the Eiffel Tower. It’s always captivating. The next morning, we had an early familiarization, starting with a bike ride. I really liked the course. It had quite a bit of cobblestone, which was quite new to me on a racecourse. The route took us through the most beautiful parts of Paris, passing by many landmarks with each lap. The transition area and start were located at the Pont Alexandre III. It was reassuring to know that after the bike leg, we had a chance to inspect the swim course. To be honest, not many people swam during the course inspection, including myself. However, the important thing was that no one had any issues after the swim.

I found myself surrounded by the biggest stars of the Olympic triathlon. I still need to get used to this. The competition area and the course were tightly secured. The accreditation cards were taken very seriously, and there were security checks at every entrance. The entire venue was guarded by numerous soldiers and police officers. This was very unusual for me.

The women’s individual race took place on the first day. I regretted not being able to participate - even more so in hindsight, given that there was swimming involved. The tactics seemed to align favorably for me. I believe I could have achieved a lot if I had made the start list. Of course, I watched the entire race attentively and tried to learn as much as possible as a spectator.

The next day, I also watched the men’s race, which also included swimming.

Honestly, I wasn’t really worried anymore about whether there would be swimming, as there was swimming on both individual days and no one got sick. However, on the third day, it was the para-athletes’ test event, and they canceled the swimming for them, turning it into a duathlon. This was quite unsettling, but I hoped that the rules for them were stricter and that maybe we wouldn’t have issues with swimming.

In the days leading up to the race, I followed the usual pre-race training program, with the difference that here, in the backdrop of the swimming pool, the Eiffel Tower rose behind. I don’t think one can ever get used to this. Every training session was a fantastic experience.

The relay of Team Hungary

Duathlon is not Triathlon

I was eagerly awaiting the morning of the race. I was so excited to compete. I woke up at 5 am. (Every day, the start was at 8 a.m., even on relay day.) The first thing I did was check my phone for emails from World Triathlon. Would there be swimming or not? Unfortunately, I received bad news. There wouldn’t be swimming due to the pollution of the Seine, so the race would be a duathlon. As far as I could see, this was bad news for our entire Hungarian relay team, but especially for me. As I mentioned in my Instagram post, I had three mental breakdowns. Why now, at such an important race? Why does this keep happening more frequently at crucial events like the European Championships, World Championships, and now at the Olympic Test Event? Let’s imagine a tennis player having to play badminton, or a volleyball player having to play handball… It’s obviously an extreme example, but a duathlon is not a triathlon! The triathlon medals won’t go to the best triathletes, but to the best duathletes, and that results in a very different podium.

Time for the relay

After venting my frustration, I calmed down and shifted my mindset to a duathlon. There was no room for doubt because the team was counting on me in the relay. This time, in the team relay, I was the fourth leg: Gábor Faldum, followed by Zsanett Kuttor-Bragmayer, Csongor Lehmann, and then me. I received a lot of encouragement from every member of our team, which meant a lot to me. They even tried to lighten the mood with humor. We did a customary warm-up. Then there was a little relaxation as we rehearsed our Team Introduction choreography, which is being scored and evaluated by various triathlon websites. Of course, this was just a joke, but teams are getting more creative. We danced the Csárdás, a Hungarian folk dance. It’s fortunate we chose that, as the other option was fencing with baguettes, which the Danish team did later on… We transitioned together at the Pont Alexandre III.

The time for the team introduction finally arrived, and it went very well. Gábor Faldum went to the start line with the other first-leg athletes, while we continued warming up, simultaneously keeping an eye on the race and encouraging each other. The relay was going strong; everyone was doing fantastically, despite our relay being generally stronger in triathlon. We consistently stayed in the top 10 in the extremely competitive field.

Marti Kropko running with Beth Potter and Laura Lindemann

Then came my turn. Among others, Csongor handed over the relay to me after competing with the Germans and the British, who were the strongest nations and had outstanding runners. The first run was about 1400 meters, starting with a steep uphill. Part of the course was cobblestone, which also didn’t make things easy. I followed the pre-discussed tactics. I had to keep up with the group at all costs. This was my fastest 1400-meter run ever, alongside World Ranking leader and individual race winner Beth Potter (GBR), Laura Lindemann (GER), and Melanie Santos (POR). I managed to maintain their pace; I have no idea how. Anyway, I succeeded in leaving the transition area with them. The bike leg posed no issues, neither technically nor in terms of pace. I also tried to play an active role in the

group because it was important to keep the pack behind us at a distance.

We dismounted together and the 1800-meter run began. The first run seemed to take its toll here. Especially on the first lap, I didn’t really recover. I was in 6th place when several athletes came from behind, also prominent names. Two of them, Team Netherlands and Team Italy, passed me. I tried to catch up to them, but unfortunately in the final sprint, I couldn’t beat the older and more experienced runners. Missing out on 6th place by 2 seconds was tough. But that was the reality, and I had no more left to give. However, Taylor Knibb (USA), who was also coming from behind, couldn’t catch up, so I managed to secure another top-10 finish, landing in 8th place.

Marti Kropko biking with world class names

Final thoughts

I usually don’t write about what could have been, because that’s not how sports work. But now I feel it’s necessary. I believe that the relay’s duathlon result was quite good, considering that it favored several teams more than us. I’m confident that if it had been a triathlon, we would have finished much higher. Everyone did fantastically, and in a triathlon, I think we could have achieved a very respectable position.

I said goodbye to Paris with mixed feelings. To be honest, a feeling of incompleteness and a desire to prove myself lingered. I couldn’t settle and tick off this race, because it held so much more for me. Nonetheless, I consider myself lucky to have participated in what I believe is one of the most epic races of all time.

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Cheers and See Ya next time! :)

Disclaimer: Few of the photos above were taken by World Triathlon and they are the respectful owners.