As the first race of Olympic qualification period ahead of the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Games, Yokohama holds special significance in this year’s World Triathlon Series. This Saturday marks the first opportunity to gain important points towards selection for a berth in Rio. And while the course may be flat, its technical bike corners require constant breaking from high speeds that guarantee a lingering burn for the athletes.
Watch the races live here:
Find the women’s international start times here.
The podium returns
All of the 2013 Yokohama medallists will return to their spot of glory this year for another shot at important points towards the Threadneedle rankings. Last year Gwen Jorgensen (USA) collected her second consecutive career WTS win with her signature fiery run across the flat course. Behind her, Emma Moffatt (AUS) and Jodie Stimpson (GBR) gutted it out over the blue carpet with a smiling Moffatt just edging out the Brit.
This year, Jodie will line up first having won each of the last two WTS events this year. While Jorgensen has had a slower start to the year, her run was anything but lethargic in Cape Town where she blasted past the field making up a two-minute deficit for bronze. A solid all-around triathlete, Moffatt won’t have many opportunities to break way which means she’ll need to stay up front if she wants a shot at a repeat medal performance. But with top threats like Helen Jenkins (GBR) and Anne Haug (GER) off the start list, it will be anybody’s race for the taking.
We are summer
While Canada might be known for its winter sports, Canucks Sarah-Anne Brault and Kirsten Sweetland stand to mix up the field this weekend. Brault enjoyed a break out performance in Auckland with fourth place after a swarm of women got stuck behind a crash. While Sweetland has tasted success as a Junior World Champion, an injury took her out of contention many of the last several years. But she appeared to be back in top form with an impressive bike in Cape Town that landed her in seventh place.
While Ainhoa Murua (ESP) may have a few years on the competition, nothing combats the experience of a veteran which she did well to show the field in Cape Town. With no apparent weaknesses, keep this Spaniard in check as she will surely storm towards the podium with the leaders. On the opposite end of the spectrum, rookie Katie Hursey (USA) will line up as one to watch, as this American’s run speed is reminiscent to that of her compatriot Jorgensen. Though she crashed on each of the two last WTS events, if she manages to stay upright on the bike, she could just be out front on the run.
Japan will feature a deep pool of talent in the women’s race with the likes of Juri Ide, Mariko Adachi, Ai Ueda, and Yuka Sato lining up. In 2009, Ide took bronze in the race and currently sits in eighth place in the Threadneedle rankings, while Adachi was the fastest woman out of the water in Yokohama last year. With the support of the always enthusiastic crowd, don’t count the home team out of the top spots.