Olympic Test Event Men's Preview
The 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games are closer than ever, hitting the one-year countdown mark on August 5. While the women's circuit has been mostly dominated by one woman this season, when it comes down to Olympic competitions, all slates are clean.
Set at the beautiful Copacabana Beach, the elite women will soon descend on Brazil for the 2015 Rio de Janeiro ITU World Olympic Qualification Event, Sunday August 2, where the top three athletes will earn their nation a spot in the lineup for the Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games next summer.
Battle of the Federations
There's no contesting that the US women have been on a tour de force this year, occupying the top three spots in the world rankings, which they've managed to do with three women inside the top 10 in each race. Leading the list is none other than Gwen Jorgensen. With her historic winning streak still intact after earning her eleventh straight victory in Hamburg, she has all the skills necessary to punch a ticket to Rio.
Compatriots Sarah True and Katie Zaferes also share a strong contention for success in the Olympic event. Ranked third this season, True just missed a medal at the London Olympics in fourth, while Zaferes has enjoyed a breakout year. These women have swept the podium twice this year, suggesting we could well see the team go 1-2-3 in Rio.
But the USA is not the only Federation turning heads, as Great Britain has recently been making headlines with the performances of Vicky Holland and Non Stanford, both of whom are back from injury. Housemates and training partners, both Holland and Stanford sprinted their way onto the podium at the most recent ITU World Triathlon Series race in Hamburg, Germany.
The normally strong Australians have faltered slightly in the rankings this year, but Olympic bronze medallists Emma Moffatt and Erin Densham will both line up with Olympic success on their side. Both of the women have struggled with injury and illness the last two years, but Moffatt showed signs of a return to brilliance when she podiumed with her teammate Ashleigh Gentle in Yokohama earlier this year.
Carolina Routier (ESP) and Brazil's own Pamela Oliveira are as amphibious as they come in the women's lineup. Look for this pair, along with Helen Jenkins (GBR), Gillian Backhouse (AUS), and Olympic silver medallist Lisa Norden (SWE) to be amongst the leaders out of the wavy, salty swim. Jenkins, Oliveira and Norden are also dangerous on the bike meaning the chase will want to reel them in quickly.
Flora Duffy (BER) started the year out with a bang with a bronze in the first race of the year with a dominant performance on the bike. The Bermuda triathlete is well suited for the challenging bike course, as is Norden and the always consistent Andrea Hewitt (NZL). Although she's suffered from a parasite the last several months, Kirsten Sweetland (CAN) is also known to do work on the bike. Norden and Jenkins' combined swim and bike power make them a worry, but both have running injuries that could plague their chances at a podium.
Bringing it home
There's no arguing that Jorgensen has more finishing power than any lady in the field. Time and again she's run herself from a minute deficit onto the podium. While she is turning into a well-rounded triathlete in all three disciplines, her run is still key to her dominance. In Olympic history, the fastest run time for women is 33:16, which was accomplished by Emma Snowsill in the 2008 Beijing Games. Jorgensen has beaten that split on five different occasions in her WTS career.
While she's endured an injury the last 15 months, Non Stanford is also amongst the fastest women on two feet. Holland has also revved up her footwork in the last year and has come back better than ever from her injury. She has serious kick down the finish chute that her competitors will want to keep in check. Their teammate Jodie Stimpson is an overall solid triathlete, able to keep pace on the swim, bike and run, and will be a factor if mechanical issues don't derail her race as they have the last two events.
On their way
Chile stamped its passport to Rio during the Pan American Games when Barbara Riveros took home the gold and earned an Olympic qualifying spot. Likewise, Japan earned a spot via Ai Ueda at the 2015 New Taipei ASTC Triathlon Asian Championships. While reigning Olympic Champion Nicola Spirig won't contest the Test Event, she validated for Switzerland with the winning time at the Baku European Games. Hewitt has also already fulfilled her country's requirements to be the athlete sent to Rio.