(Reuters) - South Africa's Richard Murray finished first in the inaugural Triathlon Super League event and took the A$100,000 ($75,970.00) first prize but the revolutionary format was also the winner as organizers enjoyed an all-action three days of racing.
The 28-year-old beat strong competition in a starting field that included compatriot and Rio Olympic bronze medalist Henri Schoeman, Russian duo Igor and Dmitry Polyanskiy, Spain's 2016 ITU world champion Mario Mola, 2015 under-23 world champion Jake Birtwhistle and Britain's double Olympic champion Alistair Brownlee, who dropped out during the event through illness.
"I knew where my body was at, but after only a few events and about four speed running sessions this year I was not very sure," Murray said on Tuesday having recovered from the grueling test on Australia's Hamilton Island.
The event, planned as the first of a series, was a three-day mixed format starting with the "triple mix", followed by the equalizer on the second day, and ending with the eliminator.
Competitors raced short distances, repeatedly, but sometimes in a variation from the usual triathlon order of swim, bike run.
Designed to be fan and TV friendly, athletes were even interviewed, somewhat breathlessly, during the transition between disciplines.
"On the first day, I noticed that this type of format really does suit me. I raced road cycling and was an 800/1500-meter runner," Murray said.
Ankle and Achilles pain across the three days of intense sprint racing did not help Murray's cause but the South African adopted a patient approach which kept him well within the front pack without pushing the pace of the contest.
"The quality was there: world champions, Olympic champions, you name it." Murray said.
"High-octane, flat-out, and no fear racing -- that's what I love."
Murray, whose consistency was shown by his amassing 56 out of 60 points, won the first two stages and finished third in the final eliminator to lift the trophy named after the event's Russian billionaire backer Leonid Boguslavsky.
Mola finished second with 49 points, taking home A$50,000, and Australian Birtwhistle was third on 48 points for A$30,000 - money way beyond that available on the regular triathlon circuit.
"Wow. Just wow. The most enjoyable, refreshing, and energizing in triathlon," Murray said immediately after his victory on March 19.
"Chris McCormack, sir, you rock," he added in reference to the co-organizer and former Ironman and ITU world champion. "Super League Triathlon has raised the game team, thanks to everyone who contributed and helped."
Australian McCormack said: "We want triathlon to be exciting, innovative, and entertaining -- this is critical for any sport’s survival in this era.
"I believe Super League Triathlon will lead the way for professional triathlon racing in this capacity and this is only the beginning."
($1 = 1.3163 Australian dollars)
(Reporting by Hardik Vyas in Bengaluru/Mitch Phillips; editing by Ken Ferris)