A New Zealand coaching great is calling for deeper analysis of why more than 40 top Kiwi athletes have turned their backs on Olympic distance triathlons recently.

Jack Ralston coached Athens gold medallist Hamish Carter for 15 years and has mentored dozens of athletes to national titles. He says there are serious retention problems and the resulting lack of depth needs addressing urgently.

Some in the sport say they are concerned not enough quality athletes are coming up behind the likes of Bevan Docherty and Kris Gemmell over the Olympic distance (1.5km swim, 40km cycle, 10km run). Some drop out altogether or head for the longer course event (3.8km swim, 180km bike, marathon).

"Speaking for the male side of the sport alone, I can think of over 40 athletes who have given up or moved into longer distances over the last two-and-a-half years," says Ralston.

"There are too many hoops to jump through - like scheduling compulsory national camps in the middle of exams and the pointless general testing of athletes.

"Some of it seems to be more about helping sports scientists get through their theses than assisting coaches. It seems like wasted money.

"I wish they would do some form of exit interviews to find out why these athletes are walking away in the 20-24 age bracket. I'm not deliberately trying to be negative; but we can't all agree with everything a programme produces, otherwise we won't make progress. These things need to be questioned.

"Triathlon New Zealand has a four-year plan but I would like to see a 12-year plan, developing secondary school students early, rather than identifying talent late."

His plea coincides with the announcement of next year's Sparc funding, which sees Triathlon New Zealand (TNZ) get an increase of $50,000 to $1.585 million. TNZ remains unwavering on how they use it.

Chief executive Dave Beeche says he has respect for Ralston's achievements as a coach but counters the claims they lack a strong development programme.

"Jack and I have had some robust discussions and I know he feels it is his moral duty to stand outside the programme and throw rocks but the reality is we can't keep funding everyone," Beeche said.

"Any sport can run off a list of those who didn't make it. Some didn't because of a lack of talent, some because of attitude and behavioural issues on tour and some because of mental health issues. Some are simply suited to long course racing because of their body type. They don't have the raw speed to win at the Olympics.

"We have limited resources but if athletes want it [an Olympic medal] badly enough, they will get what they need to make it work.

"The aim of the current structure is that you don't want to offer too much too soon - otherwise you create a culture of triathlon lifestylers doing it for the wrong reasons. I'd rather have the current set-up than a fat development programme."

But Ralston's point about whether talent is slipping out of Olympic contention is worthy of debate.

Terenzo Bozzone, William and Andrew Curtayne, and 2007 Halberg emerging talent scholarship winner Rebecca Spence are promising athletes to have slipped off TNZ's Olympic distance radar.

Beeche counters with several emerging names. He cites world under-23 silver medallist Ryan Sissons, youth Olympic gold medallist Aaron Barclay and up-and-comer Tony Dodds as male candidates to take over the elite mantle from Docherty and Gemmell.

Teresa Adam, with a sixth at the under-23 world championships, Maddy Brunton, Maddie Dillon and Sophie Corbidge are touted, in the long-term, as challengers to the achievements of Andrea Hewitt, Sam Warriner and Debbie Tanner on the women's side.