By Erin Greene on 17/05/16 at 9:46 am
With the final curtain for Olympic qualification drawing to a close, the World Triathlon Yokohama provided the backdrop for the fourth round of the 2016 ITU World Triathlon Series.
Yokohama in many ways provided a race of contrasts; while the classy victors provided a return to ‘normal service’, behind them, several athletes grabbed their opportunity to visit a World Triathlon Series podium for the first time, while one in particular brought joy to an adoring home crowd. Let’s take a look at the stories behind the numbers.
If the equine term ‘horses for courses’ was applied to triathlon, then Yokohama surely belongs to the two-time World Champion Gwen Jorgensen (USA). Having finished second for the first time in over two years in Gold Coast, returning to a venue where you have won the previous three additions would have provided additional confidence to this truly thoroughbred athlete. A fourth consecutive victory was achieved in style courtesy of her fastest run split at the venue to date. She now joins Alistair Brownlee (Kitzbuhel), as the only athlete to have won four times at one WTS venue since the series format started in 2009.
While Gwen’s dominance in recent years has been obvious, the wider monopoly of WTS victories by athletes from Great Britain and the US. Not since Anne Haug (GER), at Hamburg in 2013, has the top step of a women’s World Triathlon Series podium been occupied by an athlete from outside of those two countries. That streak is now 24 consecutive race wins from six different athletes.
Australia’s Ashleigh Gentle has now earned three career WTS podium finishes; all three have been silver medals and two of those have been in Yokohama over the last two years. Like Gwen, Ashleigh clearly feels at home in Japan. Added to another silver medal at the season opening race in Abu Dhabi, Gentle has now moved into third position overall in the Columbia Threadneedle Rankings, closing in on the leading duo of Flora Duffy (BER) and Jodie Stimpson (GBR) who were absent in Japan.
The biggest cheer of the day was surely reserved for Japan’s Ai Ueda. Prior to the event we had highlighted Ueda, along with Andrea Hewitt (NZL) in the Head-to-Head feature, with both athletes set to start their 48th career World Triathlon Series race. Showing all of those years of experience, the pair battled for the final spot on the podium, with Ueda coming out on top by just eight seconds to the delight of the home crowd. Ueda’s only other WTS podium result was also in Yokohama, two years ago. Do small margins matter? Well, Andrea missed the podium by those eight seconds, having lost exactly that amount to Ai during T1. Continuing that rivalry, Andrea (7th) and Ai (8th) are now also closely matched in the Columbia Threadneedle Rankings after four races.
With Olympic selection still on the line, Charlotte McShane (AUS) and Katie Zaferes (USA) picked a good time to have their best results of the season in fifth and sixth respectively, while Amelie Kretz (CAN) bounced back from two DNF results this year to a career best eighth.
After finishing fourth in Cape Town, Mario Mola (ESP) returned to the top step in Japan. As well as consistency of results, Mario has also been exceptional in terms of participation, not missing a single World Triathlon Series race since Stockholm in 2013. That’s an ever-present streak of 23 consecutive races. Mario’s place in the premier league of WTS athletes is now unquestioned. Winning once in 2014, twice in 2015 and three times already in 2016, his gold medal haul of six puts him in fourth place in Men’s WTS history, behind the legendary Brownlee-Gomez trio. It also extends his lead in the 2016 Columbia Threadneedle Rankings. Could this be the year that Mola becomes World Champion?
Yokohama provided a breakthrough performance for Crisanto Grajales (MEX). With four top-10 finishes and an overall seventh position in the 2015 year end rankings, Grajales has shown the potential for success and can now reflect with pride on his silver medal in Japan. A great day individually, it is also the first time – male or female – that a Mexican athlete has finished on the podium in a World Triathlon Series event. That result boosts Crisanto’s 2016 Columbia Threadneedle Rankings position to third place after four races.
The bronze medal position provided a similar story for Kristian Blummenfelt (NOR). Once again it was a first career WTS podium finish on both an individual level and for his country in World Triathlon Series racing. The result should not come as a complete shock. In recent weeks Kristian has won on the ETU European Cup circuit (Madrid) and an ITU World Cup (Cagliari), so the form line was there. This result will surely give him the confidence and belief to go on to even greater heights. Kristian was also the biggest mover in the Columbia Threadneedle Rankings, jumping 33 places to 20th.
Yokohama also saw some of the younger athletes impress. In fourth place, World Under-23 Triathlon Champion Jacob Birtwhistle (AUS) continued his seamless transition to the senior ranks with his best result to date, just five seconds short of the podium. Canada’s Tyler Mislawchuk (CAN) continues to impress with his consistency. In three races this year he has now finished tenth / eleventh / tenth, results that give him a well deserved eighth place currently in the Columbia Threadneedle Rankings.
There was one streak that did come to an end however. For the past five editions Great Britain’s Adam Bowden (GBR) has finished inside the top ten in Yokohama. Hoping to make that six, Adam came up just nine seconds short of achieving that this time around, crossing the line 12th.
The next stop on the World Triathlon Series is Leeds, the hometown of the Brownlee brothers. Expect more great racing and unpredictable results as the prospect of Rio 2016 draws ever closer.
Columbia Threadneedle Rankings following ITU World Triathlon, Yokohama
Biggest rankings mover: Laura Lindemann (GER) – from 60th to 36th (480 points)
Highest new entry to rankings: Amelie Kretz (CAN) – 37th (464 points)
Biggest rankings mover: Kristian Blummenfelt (NOR) – from 53rd to 20th (828 points)
Highest new entry to rankings: Ben Kanute (USA) – 43rd (230 points)
This report is brought to you in partnership with Columbia Threadneedle Investments, Global Financial Services partner of the ITU World Triathlon Series and Title Sponsor of the official rankings.
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