Big names make 2016 debut in New Plymouth
Round two of the 2016 ITU World Cup calendar begins this weekend with the elites taking on another sprint-distance race in New Plymouth. A collection of athletes are set to make their 2016 World Cup debuts by racing in their first World Cup competition of the season. This year marks the sixth time that New Plymouth has hosted a Word Cup, as the athletes take on the one-lap swim, four-lap bike and three-lap run course on Sunday.
Two-time World Champion Gwen Jorgensen (USA) will kick start her season by headlining the women’s start list in New Plymouth. After historically dominating the World Triathlon Series calendar last year with a streak of six-straight WTS wins, she lines up for her first World Cup since 2014 when she won in Mooloolaba. With her Olympic position already secured, every World Cup and WTS race this year is a chance for Jorgensen to hone her speed and sharpen her skills.
Appearing in her first race of the new season is also the host nation’s favourite Andrea Hewitt (NZL). Hewitt was the runner-up World Champion last year after a phenomenal season during which she became the only woman in ITU history to finish in the Top 3 of the overall World Triathlon Series rankings five times. She is also the only Kiwi on the women’s side to have already secured her spot for Rio this summer.
Last year’s New Plymouth champion, USA’s Kaitlin Donner, also returns with hopes of reclaiming her title. The win in 2015 was Donner’s first World Cup victory of her career.
Canada’s Paula Findlay is also starting her season in New Plymouth this weekend. While 2015 saw Findlay on the road to recovery from an injury, her off season training has proved that with Rio on the line this season, she is a top candidate to make the Team Canada Roster.
Annamaria Mazzetti (ITA) started off her season with a top-ten finish in WTS Abu Dhabi. While she has never raced in New Plymouth before, she excels in her swim and as a cyclist, so could make a huge impact on the course this weekend.
Spaniard Ainhoa Murua lines up with Olympic qualification points on her mind, as she looks to gain a fourth Olympic berth this season. Compatriot Carolina Routier is also on the mission of gaining necessary Olympic points. She is also one of the strongest swimmer in the field, so make no mistake she will be near the front in the water.
Other names to look out for this weekend is South African Mari Rabie and Austria’s Lisa Perterer and Sara Vilic. Rabie began her quest back into triathlon last year after spending some time off to focus on her schooling, but she has been training with other top elites in her home country and has been proving that a break from the sport couldn’t hold her back. Perterer and Vilic have had strong and consistent beginnings to their seasons, Vilic just missed the Mooloolaba podium by finishing fourth.
South African Richard Murray will be wearing the number one for the men’s race. As the reigning champion from New Plymouth, the site where he earned his first World Cup victory last year, he returns to attempt a repeat win. He also is entering the competition this weekend with a strong start to the year having taken home the silver medal in the WTS opener in Abu Dhabi.
Australia’s Aaron Royle is starting off his season on Sunday. Like training partner Jorgensen, he also has not competed in a World Cup race since Mooloolaba in 2014. He is currently the only Australian that has been confirmed to line up in Rio.
Headlining for the host nation is Kiwi Ryan Sissons. His 2016 already has a solid start. He was named the New Zealand National Champion and just recently placed seventh in WTS Abu Dhabi where he fulfilled his National Federation’s Olympic qualification requirements. Compatriot Tony Dodds will be joining Sissons after returning from injury for the first time since WTS Edmonton.
Just shy of the podium in Mooloolaba with his fourth place finish, Rostyslav Pevtsov (AZE) is a threat when it comes to the run, a danger he proved detrimental when he placed third at the 2015 Baku European Games. But a competitor that thrives in the swim and the bike is Russia’s Alexander Bryukhankov, who could create an advantage that would allow him to hold on on the run.
A string of men are also fighting hard to ensure that they not only do well in the ITU rankings, but also are successful in gaining crucial Olympic points. Mexico’s Rodrigo Gonzalez is competing to keep Mexico in the fight for a third Olympic spot. Ron Darmon (ISR) is currently in the running to secure the spot as the new flag for Europe to go to Rio this summer, but he holds the position in a close battle between Austria’s Thomas Springer, who is also racing this weekend. Likewise, Felipe Barraza of Chile is seeking essential Olympic points this weekend to keep the new flag position for Chile.