By Chelsea White on 04/04/16 at 9:40 pm
As the Olympics draw near, every race is important for securing Olympic qualification points, and this weekend the race to Rio is more heated than ever with qualification on the line for many major names at World Triathlon Gold Coast. For the third time in the city’s history, the World Triathlon Series returns to Gold Coast as the second stop on the 2016 WTS calendar for a standard-distance course.
The golden number one will be worn by Great Britain’s Jodie Stimpson, who has begun her 2016 in perfect fashion. With just one more Olympic spot open for the taking for Great Britain, Stimpson’s results so far this season put her in a good position of securing the final place. She claimed the WTS opening race in Abu Dhabi in March and then one week later grabbed the World Cup opener in Mooloolaba. While she did not compete in the Gold Coast last year, it was here that Stimpson became the U23 World Championship runner-up in 2009.
The other British star looking to snatch the final Olympic ticket for Great Britain is Helen Jenkins. The two-time Olympian earned bronze in Abu Dhabi, which proves it is going to be a tough and tight battle in determining who will make it to Rio this summer. The first one to cross the finish line in Gold Coast stands the best chance to punch a ticket to Rio, but the performances need to be top notch to be selected.
After opening up her 2016 season with a World Cup victory in New Plymouth just this last weekend, the much anticipated return of reigning World Champion Gwen Jorgensen (USA) to the World Triathlon Series will come to fruition in Gold Coast. Jorgensen hasn’t lost a race since 2014, and with Gold Coast amongst her wins last year, she joins the start list as not only the reigning World Champion, but the returning Gold Coast champ. Proving stronger and stronger in each discipline with every race, expect the undefeated triathlete to be with the leading ladies.
Australia has the potential to add its first woman to its Olympic roster this weekend if an athlete finishes in the top ten. Ashleigh Gentle, Emma Moffatt, Emma Jackson, Charlotte McShane, Erin Densham and Gillian Backhouse and Felicity Sheedy-Ryan are among the talented women vying to be that person.
Gentle and Moffatt have both reached a podium so far this season, which suggest they might have an edge to their game this weekend. Gentle captured the silver medal in Abu Dhabi, while Moffat earned the silver in the Mooloolaba World Cup. But it was Backhouse who had the best finish at the Rio Test Event and Densham, like Moffatt, who owns an Olympic bronze medal. Don’t rule out Jackson’s fiery back half run speed, which could surprise anyone down the blue carpet.
While these ladies will be going to battle to be the first Aussie across the finish line, featuring in the top 10 will be no easy feat with fierce competition toeing the line on Saturday. While Sarah True and Katie Zaferes got caught up in a crash in Abu Dhabi, they were both regular features to the podium last year. It was in Gold Coast, after all, that these women, along with Jorgensen, scored its first of two USA podium sweeps last year. Renee Tomlin busted out a noteworthy run in Abu Dhabi to ultimately finish fifth, while Kirsten Kasper just pulled out back-to-back bronze medals in Mooloolaba and New Plymouth making this US team simply on fire.
Other significant names racing this weekend is Flora Duffy (BER), Andrea Hewitt (NZL), Lisa Norden (SWE) and Mari Rabie (RSA). Duffy is already qualified for the Olympics and just missed the podium in Abu Dhabi by taking fourth. The outstanding cyclist has been creeping higher and higher in the rankings and will be looking for a medal this round. Hewitt just started her season in New Plymouth with an emotional silver medal performance that proved she is going to be a strong threat yet again this year.
Training partners Norden and Rabie are also two women to continuously watch. Norden had a top-ten finish in Abu Dhabi, while Rabie just recently had a stand-out performance in New Plymouth when she led out of the water and the bike, ultimately earning fourth place. Both will need to keep up their strong performances to ensure they stay safely within the points list for the Olympics.
Full women’s start list can be found here
The women will get the 2016 Gold Coast ITU World Triathlon Series underway at 9:36am on Saturday April 9, 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 #WTSGoldCoast and #CTrankings.
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