Olympic fates to be decided in Yokohama
On May 15, 2014 the Rio de Janeiro Olympic qualification period began in Yokohama. This weekend the same course that started this process, will also be the course that ends it. For exactly two years, elites have been battling it out at World Cups, the World Triathlon Series and Continental competitions in the hopes of earning enough Olympic points to make their National Federation’s team for this summer. After years of hard work and strategic preparation, they will have one final chance this Saturday at the 2016 ITU World Triathlon Yokohama.
Taking on the two-lap swim, nine-lap bike and four-lap run Japanese course, the fourth-stop of the WTS calendar will see the women giving it all they have for the last Olympic push.
Sitting at the top of the roster this weekend is Ashleigh Gentle (AUS). Despite being the top Aussie women in the WTS Columbia Threadneedle rankings this season, she is still fighting for her Olympic rights in Yokohama. Emma Moffatt is the only woman so far for Australia to have earned one of three potential Olympic spots, since she finished in the top ten in Gold Coast. So Gentle will still be setting out to prove that she should be granted one of the remaining two places, but against compatriots Charlotte McShane, Emma Jackson, Gillian Backhouse and Erin Densham.
Gwen Jorgensen (USA) marks the WTS start list for the second time this season. While her WTS winning streak may have come to an end in the Gold Coast, where she finished with the silver medal, she earned the nickname of “Gwensanity” for a reason. She has won Yokohama each of the last three years, and it’s where she began that famous streak back in 2014. If there’s one course this super star is confident on, it’s in Yokohama. She will also be wearing the No. 5 this weekend, a start number that historically never won a WTS race during the existence of the Series, so this is an opportunity for Jorgensen to mark another point in history.
One final spot remains on the women’s U.S. team. While Jorgensen and Sarah True were two of the first women to automatically qualify for Rio after the Rio Test Event last August, the final position has been open for the taking. Next in the lead in the points system for the US is Katie Zaferes. But the qualifying system for the United States is that a top-three finishes in Yokohama earns you an automatic ticket to Brazil. So while Zaferes ideally is leading in the points system, if her compatriots Kirsten Kasper or Renee Tomlin makes the podium, they will be the ones to get that final spot. Like the US women, Germany has automatic selection criteria, which requires a top 8 finish in Yokohama to be named an Olympian.
While she does not have to worry about trying to qualify for Rio since she has already earned her position, New Zealand’s Andrea Hewitt returns to the WTS to grace the Yokohama list and will be making the competition extra fierce this weekend. Fierce in all three disciplines, and one of the highest performing women to ever hit the Series, Hewitt will no doubt stir up the race this weekend.
South Africa’s Mari Rabie and Sweden’s Lisa Norden have been training together all year and both partners will see their Olympic fates determined this weekend. Norden will be going head-to-head with Russia’s Mariya Shorets for the final qualifying spot on the list. However, she also has the potential to earn the European “new flag” spot as well. She’s proven strong on the swim and bike this year, so ook out for her out of T2.
On the women’s side, New Zealand is currently the seventh nation to secure three athletes for Rio, while Russia follows as the final country. Austria is angling to get Julia Hauser as its third athlete, followed by Canada. Hauser needs a time in at least the top 22 to clench that third spot over Russia’s Shorets, assuming Shorets doesn’t finish higher than 35th.
The women will get the 2016 World Triathlon Yokohama underway at 10:06am on Saturday May 14, while the men will follow at 12:36pm local time. Follow all of the action live at triathlonlive.tv and on twitter @triathlonlive. Trifecta returns this year with new features. Create a new login and pick your favourites now at trifecta.usatriathlon.org.
Join the conversation with the hashtags #WTSYokohama and #CTrankings.