Best of 2011: Silva’s breakthrough in Yokohama

Best of 2011: Silva’s breakthrough in Yokohama

By Merryn Sherwood on 02/01/12 at 4:12 am

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Gold for Silva in Yokohama

Portugal’s appetite for triathlon was well and truly started with Vanessa Fernandes, one of the greatest ITU triathletes in history. And therefore the excitement around Joao Silva’s season in 2010 meant the tag ‘next best thing out of Portugal’ had stuck.

In that 2010 season he didn’t make the series podium, but was consistently close and his fourth place finish in the Budapest Grand Final handed him an overall fifth place finish in the series. Heading into season 2011, reigning ITU World Champion Javier Gomez had labelled him one of his biggest threats. It meant he was no longer just popular in Portugal, the whole triathlon world was watching.

His results throughout the year were still promising, but for someone who had been predicted to be a real podium threat, he still hadn’t climbed onto a series one. But what was emerging was a pattern; each good result was then followed by one slightly down the pecking order. He finished eighth in Sydney, followed by 27th in Madrid, 5th in Hamburg, but then 20th in London, eighth in Lausanne, and finally 27th in the Beijing Grand Final.

According to that pattern, Silva was set for another top 10 in the final race of the 2011 season in Yokohama. So it perhaps shouldn’t have been surprising that in blistering hot conditions, Silva laid down a 30-minute 14-second run – one of just two sub 30:30 times on the day – to claim his first series victory. In a weekend that already had Portugal’s attention due to the comeback of Fernandes from a seven-month lay-off, it was Silva who stole the spotlight.

He said afterwards he revelled in the hot conditions.

“This course suits me better than Beijing; I like it hot. I was a little disappointed after Beijing and I haven’t been back home for a long time, so it’s a great end to the season and I am really happy,” said Silva.

The journey to the top for Silva hasn’t been easy. He’s battled injury problems that have stalled his development. He said at the start of this year that it was the first time he had the chance to train consistently.

Age: 22
Dextro Energy Triathlon Series Wins: 1
ITU World Cup Wins: 1
Where he calls home: Benedita, Portugal

“I felt like I improved so much in 2010 as until then I never had the opportunity to train continuously, mainly because of all my injuries. Perhaps now I’m a little more responsible or I’ve been fortunate but I’ve have no serious injuries which allowed me to train solidly,” he said.

But there is something that says his stealth could be a benefit. Although he does have two European U23 titles and a bagful of European junior and U23 medals, he has just one junior World Championship medal, bronze in 2006. It meant that before 2010 he stayed largely off the world radar. While there are a few things that point to Silva doing well, hot conditions being the number one reason, it’s still hard to pick exactly when he will shine.

Certainly before Yokohama, Silva’s season had also indicated he wasn’t really a podium threat, but then he ran away with gold. Which is why heading into an Olympic year, where just it’s just one race, on one day, Silva is certainly one to watch.