11/09/2012 06:25 EST | Updated 01/09/2013 05:12 EST

Triathlete Simon Whitfield plans to compete in other race distances next year

TORONTO - Triathlete Simon Whitfield has decided to take a break from racing Olympic distances and will not return to the national team in 2013.

Triathlon Canada made the announcement in a release Friday afternoon, adding it supports Whitfield’s decision.

“Simon is taking a break from our national program after having played a significant role in not only putting us on the international radar screen, but ensuring our sport’s credibility within the Canadian sport system over the last decade,” said Triathlon Canada executive director Alan Trivett.

“Simon has done some heavy lifting for our sport – encouraging the next generation of Olympic medallists to believe they too can win, while sparking tremendous growth of triathlon for all ages across the country."

Whitfield, 37, plans to explore the opportunity of competing in other race distances. He won gold in men's triathlon at the 2000 Sydney Games and added silver eight years later in Beijing.

The Victoria resident has won every major triathlon title and is one of the most successful athletes in the sport's history. Whitfield has recorded 14 World Cup victories and eight top-10 finishes at the world championships.

His last victory came in 2009 when he won a World Cup in Des Moines, Iowa.

“We thank him for his commitment to excellence," Trivett said. "We congratulate him for his accomplishments and extend our full support towards Simon exploring new opportunities.

"Triathlon Canada will look forward to finding ways to keep Simon involved in our program with the goal of developing more medal winning athletes for Canada."

Whitfield carried the Canadian flag during the opening ceremony at the London Games last summer. His fourth Olympic triathlon ended in disappointment when he crashed shortly after getting on his bicycle.

Whitfield has raced for Canada for 16 years. He has considerable clout in Canada's high-performance sport community.

He wielded that influence at the London Games when he called out the coach and support team of teammate Paula Findlay, who finished last in the women's triathlon. He accused them of mismanaging her training and an injury that had lingered for a year.